Earlier this month, Senator Cash (Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) spoke to a number of registered migration agents in Perth. Senator Cash spoke to us on the future direction of policy in the immigration portfolio, including Working Holiday Visas, 457 Visas, Significant Investor Visas and others.
Senator Cash began by telling us that the Australian “Government is committed to a migration program that’s serves Australia’s best interests, underpins competitiveness and bolsters productivity”. Senator Cash believes that this is represented in the numbers of permanent visas granted to migrants coming to Australia as skilled applicants. The minister quoted that out of 190,000 permanent places, 68% (128,973) were in the skilled stream whilst only 60,000 (30%) were in the family stream. Senator Cash also updated us that over 6 million visitors arrived in the last year to Australia’s shores – primarily from China, New Zealand, the USA and the UK.
Of intimate importance to us as visa agents for numerous large businesses around Australia, was what Senator Cash announced as her agenda now that she (together with Minister Morrison) holds this portfolio. It is an agenda of:
1. Lifting unnecessary burdens of business (red tape) Senator Cash informed us that the Prime Minister himself has asked all ministers to come to him with anything that can be cut. As a result, the government has already repealed more than 50,000 pages of legislation and regulations, with estimated savings of over $700m in compliance costs.
The government is aiming for a total of $1bn, so is well on its way to its target. The key message from this is that the government is hoping to cut its own compliance costs, whilst also saving money for private sector through cutting undue process.
2. Improving integrity
Senator Cash also spoke to the 457 review and Significant Investor Visa review currently underway, and gave some insight into what she is pushing the reviews to focus on.
The 457 Review
The government is expecting businesses to source Aussie workers first, but is also understanding that there is always going to be a case for foreign labour Assisting businesses to find labour they need, as quickly and efficiently as possible. The focus is on ‘how to maintain integrity, whilst not placing unnecessary admin burdens on business’. After Senator Cash has received the feedback from the review, she will then decide how to legislate any changes in the program.
Senator Cash began by reinforcing that the Australian government is aware of the benefits of SIV program to Australia, Australians and the Australian economy. It ‘creates valuable flows of investment, and brings entrepreneurs of the highest caliber to Australia’. The latest figures show that as of 31st March 2014, $870m has been invested already by 174 primary applicants in the SIV category. As at the time of Senator Cash’s talk, 515 applicants ($2.5bn) are sitting in the pipeline.
Senator Cash said on the day that “as long as you can maintain the integrity, we need to look at every possible way to enhance this product to overseas investors”. The review will cover:
– Increasing flexibility and investment choices Improve the product for both the investor, and also the Australian economy
– Disallowing recycling of investor funds
– Looking at institutional investors
– Extending reach of program (over 90% of all investors in this program are from China)
The impression one gets from the time with the Senator on the day, was that there is a focus on a two edged sword approach – decreasing unnecessary process and red tape, but also increasing the integrity of the immigration system. This leaves us to believe that whilst the process would be less cumbersome, the hammer will fall heavier on those who get it wrong. We hope that the focus on ‘integrity’ does not limit the deep need for an increased level of procedural fairness from the Department of Immigration and its officers. The great news for all in the migration industry in Australia is that we appear to have ministers (both Morrison and Cash) that are willing to sit down and listen to all stakeholders.