By Kruno Kukoc, First Assistant Secretary Migration and Visa Policy Division. Responsible for overseeing the policy development and implementation of Australia’s permanent migration and temporary entry programs.
The past year was an important year for the migration program and a range of temporary entry programs. We implemented a number of changes that were designed to improve responsiveness to Australia’s economic needs, strengthen program integrity and, where possible, streamline our processes.
With the new year well and truly underway, I thought this would be a good opportunity to run through the year that was.
The Migration Program We successfully delivered the 2011–12 migration program within two places of its planning level of
185 000. We are now halfway through the 2012–13 migration program—the largest program on record with 190 000 places, and work is already in progress for the 2013–14 program.
When planning for the program, we conduct extensive consultations with stakeholders in all capital cities and some regional centres. These consultations provide valuable feedback and public opinion on the size and composition of the program.
Skilled migration The biggest reform to the skilled migration program was the introduction of SkillSelect on July 1 last year. SkillSelect represents a fundamental change to Australia’s skilled migration practices. It provides a one-stop shop for:
- prospective migrants to research and apply for visas
- employers and state and territory governments to connect with candidates for sponsorship
- government to manage the migration program in response to Australia’s economic needs.
Parallel to this are the reforms to the permanent employer sponsored program occurred simultaneously with the introduction of SkillSelect and allowed us to maximise the benefit of temporary skilled migrants transitioning to permanent residence. The reforms have also taken the important step of bringing about the Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List which aligns the Subclass 457 visa with its permanent counterparts.
A revised business skills program was also launched on July 1 to enable Australia to attract people with demonstrated business acumen and a willingness to innovate. A key component of these reforms is the significant investor visa, which was introduced on November 24.
Over this past year we also hosted one of our most successful Skills Australia Needs events in London during four days in February. The event attracted 45 exhibitors and more than 1300 pre-screened skilled workers. Following this success, the department staged a Skills Australia Needs event in Houston, Texas—targeting skilled workers in the oil, gas, mining and construction industries.
Finally in terms of skilled migration, 2012 also saw the establishment of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM), which provides the government with independent advice on skilled migration to create stronger skilled migration policies and programs. The Council is chaired by Michael Easson AM, Executive Chair of EG Property Group, a fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, and a serving member on the boards of ACTEW Corporation and Telstra Stadium.
Family migration To improve the assessment of family violence and lessen the burden for victims, the family violence provisions were amended on November 24 last year. Changes were made to streamline the evidence that applicants need to provide when making a non-judicial claim for family violence.
The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee held an enquiry into the Prospective Marriage (subclass 300) visa. The committee’s report made seven recommendations, but found ‘there is a high level of integrity within the prospective marriage visa program’.
Working holiday program Highlights in the working holiday program during 2012 included the government agreement and announcement of the commencement of working holiday negotiations with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Slovak Republic, Israel and Greece. Implementation of new arrangements with Argentina occurred in February, expansion of the arrangements with Indonesia were announced in July and an agreement was signed with Uruguay in late November.
Visitor visas Access to the electronic Tourist (e676) visa was expanded to Chile, Croatia, Maldives, Turkey (officials), Argentina and Brazil. A streamlined trial was also introduced for Chinese independent tourists.
Student visas We continued to implement the recommendations of the Hon Michael Knight AO following his review of the student visa programs. The changes are aimed at improving quality, integrity and competitiveness.
We have also been actively conducting a review of the Assessment Level Framework in consultation with key stakeholders and introduced the Migration Legislation Amendment (Student Visas) Bill 2012, which will cease the automatic cancellation of student visas.
Visa deregulation In November, the simplified temporary work visa framework was delivered. This is a big step toward the government’s commitment, under the Better Regulation Agenda, to reduce the number of visas by 50 per cent.
Inquiry into the Migration Treatment of Disability We helped the Government finalise and table its response to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration’s report on the Inquiry into the Migration Treatment of Disability. The Government’s response introduces the idea of a new and innovative net benefit model for assessing the health impacts of prospective migrants, against their benefit to Australia.
I thank you all for your continued engagement with our Migration Blog and hope that it continues to serve as a reliable and up-to-date source of information and discussion into the future.