ACTU SUBMISSION Review of skilled migration and 400 series visa Review of skilled migration and 400

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Transcript of ACTU SUBMISSION Review of skilled migration and 400 series visa Review of skilled migration and 400

  • Page 1 of 17

    ACTU SUBMISSION

    Review of skilled migration

    and 400 series visa programs

    17 October 2014

  • Page 2 of 17

    Table of Contents

    INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................................. 3

    OVERVIEW OF OUR POSITION ON SKILLED MIGRATION ............................................... 3

    OBJECTIVES AND PRINCIPLES UNDERPINNING THE REVIEW ...................................... 4

    KEY THRESHOLD ISSUES .............................................................................................. 5

    The shift towards employer-sponsored migration ....................................................... 6

    The temporary visa workforce in Australia ................................................................... 8

    The push to expand the skilled migration program into lower-skilled occupations 12

    Pathways to permanent residency.............................................................................. 13

    The importance of labour market testing and strong regulation for community

    acceptance of the skilled migration program ............................................................ 14

    COMMENT ON ASPECTS OF THE DISCUSSION PAPER ................................................ 15

    Points Test .................................................................................................................... 15

    English language proficiency ....................................................................................... 16

    Streamlining visa categories ....................................................................................... 16

  • Page 3 of 17

    INTRODUCTION

    The ACTU welcomes the opportunity to make a preliminary submission to the review of skilled

    migration and 400 series visa programs.

    The ACTU is the peak body for Australian unions, made up of 46 affiliated unions. We

    represent almost 2 million working Australians and their families.

    In this submission we provide an overview of our position on skilled migration and some of

    the key principles and considerations that should underpin this review. We then identify

    some of the major threshold issues the review should address and provide comment on

    some specific matters raised in the discussion paper.

    This review has been billed by the Department as the biggest review in 25-30 years and one

    which will result in a far-reaching transformation of the skilled migration program.

    A review of such ambition must be prepared to conduct a ‘root and branch’ assessment of

    the key features of the skilled program. As part of this review, it is imperative that current

    policy settings are subject to critical questioning and debate.

    This includes debate over key matters such as the size and largely uncapped nature of the

    current temporary visa holder workforce in Australia, and the ongoing and increasing shift

    towards employer-sponsored migration, away from permanent, independent migration.

    We understand that this is the first stage of what is intended to be a major review and we

    look forward to participating as the process continues.

    OVERVIEW OF OUR POSITION ON SKILLED MIGRATION

    The ACTU and our affiliated unions are longstanding supporters of a strong, diverse and non-

    discriminatory immigration program.

    Immigration is an integral part of the Australian story. Migrants have made and continue to

    make an invaluable contribution to Australia’s social, cultural and economic life. Unions are

    particularly proud of the fact that thousands of our members across the country are migrants

    or come from migrant backgrounds, and indeed union officials too have similarly diverse

    backgrounds.

  • Page 4 of 17

    Unions recognise that skilled migration will continue to be a part of the response to our

    future national skill needs. Our clear preference is that this occurs primarily through

    permanent migration where workers enter Australia independently, with a greater stake in

    Australia’s long-term future and without the ‘bonded labour’ type problems that can emerge

    with temporary, employer-sponsored migration.

    We recognise that there may be a role for some level of employer-sponsored and temporary

    migration to meet critical skill needs. However, there needs to be a proper, rigorous process

    for managing this and ensuring there are genuine skill shortages and Australian workers are

    not missing out on jobs and training opportunities.

    The skilled migration program should not be a substitute for properly investing in and training

    the Australian workforce. Instead, it should be viewed as supplementary to national skills

    policy and the supply of skilled workers delivered through domestic education and training

    and by increasing the labour force participation of those who continue to be under-

    represented in the workforce.

    The first priority must always be to maximise jobs and training opportunities for Australians –

    that is, citizens and permanent residents of Australia, regardless of their background and

    country of origin – and ensure they have the first opportunity to access Australian jobs.

    OBJECTIVES AND PRINCIPLES UNDERPINNING THE REVIEW

    It is vital that a review of this scope is underpinned by clear and consistent policy principles.

    We note that the discussion paper has made some attempt to do this by identifying six

    principles that will guide the review and a further four terms of reference. Elements of those

    principles that we strongly support include the importance of maintaining integrity in the

    program, supporting and complementing the Australian labour market, and ensuring the

    primacy of Australian workers.

    The problem is that the review principles and terms of reference are heavily, and

    unnecessarily, influenced by this Government’s deregulatory agenda, which it seeks to apply

    across all areas of government policy regardless of the circumstances, and its pre-

    occupation with reducing what it considers to be ‘red tape’ and imposts on business. The

    same pre-occupation with deregulation was apparent in the terms of reference for the recent

    review of the temporary 457 visa program.

  • Page 5 of 17

    No real consideration is given in the discussion paper to the conflict between the various

    principles and terms of reference and how this conflict should be managed and the

    principles prioritised. As we submitted to the 457 visa review panel, the integrity of the

    program should be paramount. Considerations of how to deregulate the program and vague

    notions of ‘red tape reduction’ are, at best, a second order issue. In most cases, it is simply

    not appropriate that ‘deregulation’ even be a relevant consideration.

    The context is important in this regard. For example, it may be reasonable to focus on

    reducing ‘red tape’ and simplifying visa products when looking at how to best facilitate the

    movement of overseas players, officials and spectators coming to Australia and New Zealand

    for the upcoming Cricket World Cup.

    However, when looking at the many visa types with work rights attached to them, the clear

    priority should be the integrity of the program, and protecting employment opportunities for

    Australian workers and promoting the wellbeing of all workers. The ongoing cases of visa

    fraud that have been reported recently under both the permanent and temporary migration

    streams further illustrate why ‘deregulation’ is not an appropriate policy principle to underpin

    the review.

    KEY THRESHOLD ISSUES

    In our submission, a review of this sort provides an important opportunity to consider

    properly some key threshold issues concerning the future direction of the skilled migration

    program.

    These include the increasing trend towards employer-sponsored, rather than independent

    migration; the growing size and nature of the temporary visa workforce in Australia, and the

    continuing push to open up more pathways for lower-skilled migration. These are major,

    interrelated shifts in how the skilled migration program has traditionally operated, and there

    needs to be far more discussion and debate of these issues than that provided in the review

    discussion paper. This is a debate the Government needs to have not only with interested

    stakeholders in this review, but with the broader community.

    These issues are discussed further below.

  • Page 6 of 17

    The shift towards employer-sponsored migration

    Independent, permanent migration has very much been the basis for the success story of

    immigration in Australia over a number of decades. However, as the discussion paper notes,

    in more recent years the focus has shifted markedly, with ‘demand-driven’ employer-

    sponsored migration increasingly holding sway under successive governments of both

    persuasions. The bulk of Australia’s migrant workforce now comes from employer-sponsored

    and tempora