Amendment (Strengthening Employer Compliance) Bill 2023

Migration Act 1958 was amended to improve employer compliance and protect temporary migrant workers from exploitation. The bill has received royal assent on 20 February 2024. This Act commences on 1 July 2024.

Included in this Bill are the following measures:

  • Criminalizing coercion or undue pressure on a person to breach their work-related visa requirements;
  • If employers have been convicted of these offences, they will be prevented, for a specific period of time, from hiring further temporary visa holders;
  • Publishing the names of these prohibited employers on the Home Affairs website;
  • Significantly increasing the pecuniary and civil penalties as a deterrent from these acts;
  • Providing increased power and tools to the ABF, including issuing enforceable undertakings and compliance notices;
  • Introducing whistleblower protection by repealing s235 of the Migration Act, which currently makes it an offence for a visa holder to breach work conditions or unlawful citizens who work, to encourage victims to report exploitation;
  • Prescribed matters that can be taken into account for s116 of the Migration Act (Power to cancel visas) to give weight to matters related to these situations when considering visa cancellations.

This is part of the government’s commitment to strengthen employer compliance and decrease the exploitation of migrant workers. These new measures will increase the consequences of employers forcing visa holders to breach their visa conditions to work in exploitative situations, as well as give the ABF more power to investigate and enforce these measures.

Whistleblower protection is also important as many visa holders do not report these issues due to fear of repercussions from their employers, including visa cancellation threats.

We hope to see more of these protections as part of the Migration Strategy 2024, particularly the Department’s promise to increase the time a 482 visa holder can have to find a new sponsor. Currently, they are limited to 60 days to find a new sponsor or depart Australia. The Department has proposed an increase to 180 days, and allowing them to work during this period. These measures will give some power back to visa holders and allow them to leave exploitative and toxic work environments more easily.

Further Information on this Bill can be found on the Australian Parliament House website.

Administrative Review Tribunal Bills

As part of the government’s plans to streamline our various tribunals, the Administrative Review Tribunal (Consequential and Transitional Provisions No. 2) Bill 2024 has been introduced to abolish the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and establish the Administrative Review Tribunal (ART).

This Bill makes consequential amendments to 110 Commonwealth Acts that interact with the AAT Act, to allow ART to also take over the jurisdiction of the AAT for merits reviews. Immigration merits reviews cover approximately seven per cent (7%) of the AAT’s current caseload.

The Law Council of Australia has also made submission to the House of Representatives on the establishment of the ART, welcoming the Bills’ proposed improvements to Australia’s current administrative review regime.

The submission makes a range of recommendations, including:

  • increased emphasis on merits review;
  • there should be an independent review of the Bills, conducted after three to five years;
  • all senior members of the Tribunal must be legally qualified and enrolled for at least seven years;
  • the Attorney-General must be required to establish an assessment panel to assess candidates for appointment to the Tribunal (rather than it being a discretion to establish such panel);
  • a person should be able to apply for legal and financial assistance in all matters;
  • following notification of systemic issues by the President of the Tribunal or the Administrative Review Council, the relevant Commonwealth agency (or Minister) should be required to provide a published response addressing any such systemic issues within a specified timeframe; and
  • timeframes and procedures should be harmonised to a greater extent for migration matters.

These suggestions by the Law Council touched on several issues with the current AAT, including the lack of legal and financial assistance available and limited access to refunds, as well as the appointment of members to the tribunal. Currently, there is no requirement that the members are legally qualified. We hope to see these recommendations incorporated into the new ART.

Further Information on this Bill can be found on the Australian Parliament House website and Law Council of Australia website.

Modern Slavery Amendment (Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner) Bill 2023

This Bill amends the Modern Slavery Act 2018 to establish the Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner as an independent statutory office holder within the Attorney-General’s portfolio. This bill aims to provide an independent body for victims and survivors, businesses and civil society to address modern slavery and strategies relating to these issues.

This Bill is currently being debated. After reports from the Federation Chamber, a third reading was agreed to on 8 February 2024.

Further information on this Bill and its progress can be found on the Australian Parliament House website.

The Law Council has long expressed strong support for the establishment of an independent Commissioner since 2016, recognising it as a pivotal development in addressing and effectively countering modern slavery across the country.

Some of the recommendations the Law Council is pushing for include:

  • Australian Government should expand appropriate legal assistance services for victims of modern slavery and trafficking, including in Rural, Regional and Remote locations and accompanied by skilled, professional interpreter services where needed;
  • The Commissioner should ensure that information and links are made clearly available regarding services beyond the criminal justice system such as Legal Aid offices, Community Legal Centres, and other appropriate organisations.

These recommendations will increase access to legal and other assistance in these cases, as well as provide accessible information and aid to the victims. We hope to see the incorporation of these recommendations to increase support for victims, who are highly vulnerable and lack adequate support systems due to language and financial barriers.

Further Information on this Bill can be found on the Australian Parliament House website and Law Council of Australia website.

National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Strengthening Quality and Integrity in Vocational Education and Training No. 1) Bill 2024

This Bill is part of the government’s strategy to address the integrity issues of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector. The Bill amends the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 to respond to the integrity and quality issues that were highlighted by a number of reviews, such as the Nixon review. This Bill will provide powers to the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to take swift action to deter and remove non-genuine or unscrupulous Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), apply greater scrutiny to new RTOs seeking to enter the VET sector and increase penalties that ASQA is able to seek against RTOs for serious breaches of the Act.

We should hopefully see a clean-up of the student visa industry due to these changes, with a decrease in RTOs providing courses that are mostly used to facilitate further student visa applications that may not be genuine (eg made to facilitate further stays in Australia, low-quality courses/RTOs that allow for student visa holders to undertake full-time work in breach of their visa conditions).

This Bill was introduced to the Lower House on 7 February 2024.

Further information on this Bill and its progress can be found on the Australian Parliament House website.

Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill 2024

This Bill amends the Passenger Movement Charge Act 1978 (Passenger Movement Charge Act) to implement the Australian Government’s 2023-24 Budget measures. This bill will increase the passenger movement charge, which is the tax imposed on persons departing Australia for another country, whether or not the persons return to Australia. This tax is usually included in the price of flight tickets and the carrier forward this charge to the Department.

The rate of the passenger movement charge, per person, is proposed to be increased from $60 to $70 for persons who depart Australia for another country on or after 1 July 2024. However, the previous passenger movement charge of $60 will continue to apply if the person departs Australia using a ticket sold or issued before 1 July 2024.

This Bill was introduced to the Lower House on 7 February 2024 and a second reading was moved.

Further information on this Bill and its progress can be found on the Australian Parliament House website.


  • VETASSESS has resumed taking new Pathway 1 skills assessment applications for the occupation of Plumber (General), ANZSCO code 334111, on Monday, February 12. Last September 2023, VETASSESS paused acceptance of new Pathway 1 applications for Plumber (General) because the qualification they assessed against was superseded. The new CPC32420 Certificate in Plumbing qualification came into effect on 31 January 2024 and VETASSESS can now resume assessing applicants against the updated criteria.
  • VETASSESS is continuing discussions with Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) on when they can resume skills assessments of the 7 other trades they suspended last year and will provide an update when they have further information.
  • Further information and fact sheets can be found on the VETASSESS website.

TRA Updates

  • For migrant plumbers with an Offshore Technical Skills Record (OTSR), kindly note that currently there is no nationally agreed Australian Minimum Context Gap Training package for migrant plumbers who hold an Offshore Technical Skills Record (OTSR).
  • It is at the discretion of each state and territory plumbing regulator to provide the plumbing OTSR holder with a pathway to be issued the Certificate III in Plumbing and/or a ‘full’ plumbing registration. The pathway, cost and duration can differ for each state and territory. Further information can be found on the TradesRecognition Australia website.
  • TRA’s Migration Skills Assessment (MSA) and Migration Points Advice (MPA) programs are currently experiencing a significant increase in volume and this is affecting processing times. Assessments are taking longer than 120 days to complete. TRA has noted that any requests to expedite applications may not be able to be accommodated during this time. Further information can be found on the Trades Recognition Australia website.
  • TRA’s Job Ready Program is also experiencing a high number of applications and the average processing times are currently longer than expected. As of February 2024, the average processing times from the date of submission are:
    • Job Ready Employment Application: 7 months
    • Job Ready Workplace Assessment: 5 months
    • Job Ready Final Assessment: 1.5 months
    • General document processing: 2.5 months
  • Further information can be found on the Trades Recognition Australia website.

We strongly recommend that clients start their skills assessment processes as soon as possible, given that longer processing times are to be expected. If you have any upcoming visa expiries, we would also recommend considering other visa options.

Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot

Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot (IECSEP) is a new temporary visa pathway for eligible UK citizens under the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement. This program will be entirely administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

The IECSEP is offered in two streams:

  • Early Careers stream (12-month visa); and
    • Open to tertiary qualified applicants aged 21-45
    • Needs a minimum of three months of employment in their current role.
    • Prospective occupations in Australia must be defined at the ANZSCO Skills Levels 1-3.
  • Innovation stream (3-year visa). The opportunity is not restricted to any particular business sector.
    • Open to applicants who have a demonstrated contribution to innovation in any sector, and who are highly skilled and experienced.
    • Assessed on a merit basis.
    • No age cap for the Innovation stream.
    • Prospective occupations in Australia must be defined at the ANZSCO Skill Level 1.

All applicants must have prospective employment in Australia and a letter of offer or an employment contract must be provided as part of the application. IECSEP is also open to UK citizens already working in Australia.

Please note that IECSEP applicants planning on working in occupations requiring licensing or registration must already hold full and unconditional Australian licences, registrations or certifications to be eligible. This may prevent some applicants from accessing the Early Career stream if they are issued with a restricted/conditional licence.

There will be 1000 places available across both streams until June 2024, with a further 2000 places available until June 2025.

Other flexibilities and concessions include:

  • No requirement for Australian employers to sponsor IECSEP applicants;
  • Labour market testing and nominated occupation lists do not apply;
  • DFAT’s current processing time for IECSEP applications is 7 days.

If successful, IECSEP applicants will be issued a letter of support from DFAT to allow them to apply for a Temporary Work (International Relations) subclass 403 visa Government Agreement stream.

Far North Queensland DAMA Update – New occupations and salary concessions

On 12 February 2024, the Cairns Chamber of Commerce submitted a new urgent FNQ DAMA Deed of Variation. They will be requesting a further 40+ occupations, as well as further TSMIT (salary) concessions for specific occupations where the local market salary justifies this.

The Cairns Chamber of Commerce will provide further updates when available.

Gilton Valeo Lawyers can answer your questions about Australia’s immigration system

As experts in Australian immigration, Gilton Valeo Lawyers can guide you in identifying the best immigration pathways to bring people over to start your Australian office, provide you with strategic consulting along the way, and connect you with our partners to make sure everything goes smoothly.

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