A comprehensive review into Australia’s migration system will begin in earnest early next year when three migration experts, whose appointments were announced this week, hand down their report to inform a “new national strategy” aiming at making access to skilled migrants more efficient.
Speaking on ABC Radio National Monday morning, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said there were some “very significant problems with the immigration system” that needed to be fixed and said the overhaul will “go back to first principles”.
“Why are we bringing people to Australia? What are the big problems that we need help with?” O’Neil said.
“And how can we design a system that’s simple, that’s inexpensive, that’s fast, that’s easy-to-use, and that helps us get the best out of these people that want to make Australia their home?”
The Home Affairs Minister publicly criticised the current state of the immigration system in response to a report from the Nine papers which found organised crime networks were brazenly gaming the system to operate a network of sex trafficking, drug imports, and worker exploitation.
“We’ve ended up with a system where there’s massive visa queues and where the people who actually legitimately want to use the system can’t properly use it – and yet criminals who want to bring people into the country as slaves are able to somehow do it,” O’Neil told Nine.
“We’ve got to change the way that this system operates.”
Guiding the review will be Dr Martin Parkinson, Chancellor of Macquarie University and former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet; Dr Joanna Howe, Associate Professor in Law at the University of Adelaide and a recognised migration expert; and John Azarias, formerly of the Ministerial Advisory Council for Skilled Migration who has been part of a previous review into immigration.
O’Neil suggested nothing would be off the table during the review process, including the skilled occupation list which she said hadn’t been functioning on an “evidence-based process”.
Last week the Home Affairs Minister announced a de-prioritisation of tech skills visas including for IT professionals, including cyber security specialists – a decision industry baulked at during a time of heightened awareness about the need for stronger cyber security given the Optus and Medibank breaches.
Pieter Danhieux, co-founder and CEO of cyber security training company Secure Code Warrior said O’Neill’s visa changes would “create new hiring challenges that simply shouldn’t exist”.
“This will impact organisations that are trying their best to raise their own security standards, harden their security posture, and structure the team and resources they need to make software safer,” he said.
“This decision will only force Aussie startups and scale-ups to hire overseas, while state-backed employment programs to keep jobs here languish.”
The move to de-prioritise tech skills visas also appears to be at odds with the government’s repeated calls for more tech skills in order bridge short-term skills gaps as it heads toward a target of 1.2 million tech workers by 2030.
The office of Industry Minister Ed Husic declined to comment for this story.