Something to ponder – Orphans in Bali

Before we delve into what the Federal Budget hopes to achieve in the next 12 months, we wanted to do a quick shout out to Kingdom Children Ministry (an organisation helping orphanages and remote villages with funding and English tuition).

In a recent trip to Bali, our practice leader Troy Andres volunteered with Kingdom Children Ministry where he taught kids English and how to jab, bob and weave like his idol Manny Pacquaio.  That very same orphanage is now raising funds to send a few promising young orphans to university and they have set up a GoFundMe page.

If you have a few dollars to spare, it would be great if you could help out!

Word Play and Population Planning 101

Pop quiz  – what is the difference between a target and a ceiling and do you remember the exact moment when one word replaced the other?

In 2015, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was given the green light to rebadge the word ‘target’ to ‘ceiling’ by the Coalition.  Some may say this is simply minutiae in the face of legislative change however the difference between these two words runs deeper than their spelling and it has effectively set the tone for the present and future.

Target’ is synonymous to goal.  It can be defined as something we aspire to or would like to achieve.  The use of the word ‘target’ in the Migration Program and in relation to visa grants reflected the longstanding attitude that a fruitful economic immigration flow would contribute to growth and fiscal success.

The word ‘ceiling’ more so seems synonymous with the word cap or limit and the Home Affairs Minister has never tried to hide his intentions when referring to such a word.  Its use is to ensure that the migration program is managed with a tighter grip and to reduce migrant intake.

‘The Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, has said the government already had, and would reduce migrant numbers “where we believe it’s in our national interest.”’
The Guardian

Understanding this word play was sparked by the 2019 Federal Budget Announcement and the changes that are set to ensue (if the coalition remains in power).   In our analysis below, we will be paying close attention to the way in which the changes reflect the shift from encouraging migrant growth via a systematic process to limiting and displacing migrant entrance for the purposes of managing sustainable population growth.

Migration, Population Growth and Population Planning

The 2019 Federal Budget has announced that Migration Program Planning Levels will be reduced from 190,000 to 160,000 over the next four years.   This comes under the broader infrastructure agenda of managing current population growth in Australia’s major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne which are top picks for migrant work and settlement.   It is said that this cumulative cut of 120,000 permanent migration places will be compatible with the $15 billion spent on new roads and rail lines, including the light rail for the purposes of “congestion busting.”

Alongside this, the government has unveiled a number of new initiatives to push skilled migrants to work and settle in regional areas of Australia where increased population is not only accepted but encouraged.

Interestingly, the actual migration levels have never reached 190,000 and have sat at the target or ceiling of 160,000 for the last few years.  As such, it does appear that this word play has a lot more to do with politics than actual immigration.

In 2017/2018 the DHA granted a total of 162,417 permanent visas with the threshold target set at 190,000.  Despite the latter 2017/2018 has seen a;

  • 12% decrease in the number of permanent migration program numbers in the last financial year;
  • 10.5% drop in skilled stream visas granted since July 2016;
  • 17% drop in family stream visas granted since July 2016.

New Regional Visas

The Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa and the Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa will be set to make their debut in November 2019, replacing the existing 187 and 489 visa subclasses.

The new regional visas will allow skilled migrants to live and work in regional Australia for five years with the option to be eligible for permanent residency proceeding after three years of living and working in the respective regional area.

These visas subclasses were announced prior to the NSW State elections and no regulations or policy has been forthcoming aside from the following information:

Skilled Employer Sponsored (Provisional)

  • 9000 places allocated;
  • 700 eligible occupations;
  • Priority processing available.

Skilled Work Regional (Provisional)

  • 14,000 places allocated;
  • Over 500 eligible occupations;
  • Priority processing available.

Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) Visa

  • Three years living and working in a regional area;
  • Must have held either a Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) or Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa.

This new set of Regional Visas comes as no surprise as this is something we predicted in our Looking Back, Moving Forward feature following a dissection of the Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) and the Great Southern Coast of Victoria, which essentially operates to the same tune as the new regional visas – bar the fact that the former two specify regions where migrants must work.

Is it appropriate to say – we told you so?

Destination Australia Program

In accord with the department’s ongoing policy to decentralise migration growth, the Destination Australia Program has been introduced by the Government to encourage tertiary education in regional areas in the same way as the new regional visas.

Up for grabs is a pool of scholarships worth approximately $94 million for international and domestic students who choose to study in regional Australia for higher education or vocational education qualifications.

And if this wasn’t generous enough, the Government has also granted an extension of the Temporary Graduate (Subclass 485) visa for regional graduates which commences 2021.   This will include an additional 12 month second post-study work visa for international graduates, who will be assured a total of three years guaranteed.

To be eligible the applicant must demonstrate that they graduated after studying at a regional campus and graduated with a higher educate or post graduate qualification.

Work and Holiday Visa Cap Increased – Indonesia

In light of the above however, Indonesian citizens can look forward to a ceiling that has been extended.  The annual cap for WHV (subclass 462) for Indonesian citizens will be increased from 2,500 to 5,000 over the six years to 2025.

VACS to increase

VACS will be increased for visa subclasses, with the exception of Visitor subclass 600.    The fee will increase by 5.4% from 1 July 2019, not a lot of time to get our piggy banks in a row.

The Government has forecasted that this will increase revenue by $275 million from 2018/19 to 2021/22.  We just wonder whether we will see more increases in the subsequent years and what that will look like.

VAC exemptions – INAS Games and T20 World Cup

Another exception to the rule? Subclass 408 VACs are waved for athletes and officials participating in the 2019 INAS Global Games in Brisbane and competitors and officials for the International Cricket Council T20 World Cup 2020.

Sponsorship for Partners

The Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016, passed by Parliament on 28 November 2018, will provide a framework to separate sponsorship assessments from visa application assessments for Family visas.

The separate sponsorship framework will first be implemented in the new Sponsored Parent (Temporary) visa which will be open for sponsorship applications from 17 April 2019.

The peak body for Migration has announced yesterday that further regulation and system changes are required for the new framework to apply to other visas.  At this stage, there is no timeframe for expansion of the new sponsorship framework to other family visas and therefore the current arrangements for existing visas, including partner visas, will continue to operate from 17 April 2019.