Politics Analysis

Dutton pouts after Albo delivers on Migration Program

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The Albanese Government has acted to improve labour shortages unlike the Coalition (Image by Dan Jensen)

After the Coalition stalled for almost a year, worsening our labour shortage, Dutton has the gall to complain about Labor's Migration Program win, writes Dr Abul Rizvi.

ALL THOSE businesses, schools, hospitals and house builders crying out for skilled labour from late 2021 will have every right to be angry at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) leadership for failing to deliver the 2021-22 migration program by almost 16,500 visas.

The 2021-22 Migration Program delivered 143,556 visas compared to a Cabinet-approved planning level of 160,000. This was despite massive application backlogs and an increase in new permanent resident applications from 157,989 in 2020-21 to 185,030 in 2021-22.

This is likely to be quite unlike the 27,583 visa shortfall engineered by Peter Dutton in 2017-18 on his contrived assertion that he was re-introducing integrity to the visa system — he was doing nothing of the sort. Under Dutton, the visa system – in particular asylum visas – was rorted like never before.

The Migration Program shortfall in 2021-22 is the result of chaos in the visa system that should be laid at the feet of DHA leadership as it is highly unlikely former Immigration Minister Alex Hawke wanted a shortfall given record labour shortages.

Labour shortages were well and truly apparent from August 2020 when reported job vacancies shot up to 208,000, and the unemployment rate began to fall sharply.

By November 2021, when DHA knew international borders would soon be re-opened, job vacancies had reached over 400,000 — a level we had never before seen. The unemployment rate had fallen to 4.2 per cent.

That should have been the trigger for DHA leadership to ensure the Migration Program would be delivered to the Cabinet-approved planning level of 160,000 and be ready to deliver at an even higher level if the Morrison Government decided it would respond to the extraordinary labour shortages.

 Source: ABS Job Vacancies Australia

But no.

The DHA leadership continued to ignore the cries for help with labour shortages. Indeed, in January 2022, the Morrison Government issued only 200 invitations for Skilled Independent visas and another 200 for Skilled Work Regional visas, followed in April 2022 by another 1,000 invitations for Skilled Independent visas and 500 Skilled Work Regional visas.

It was not until August 2022 that the Albanese Government issued 12,200 Skilled Independent visa invitations. There is no reason the Morrison Government could not have done this in late 2021 and contributed significantly to easing the skilled labour shortages much earlier.

Indeed, in September 2022, Peter Dutton ironically said:

“... we do need an increase in the migration numbers, but we’ll see what the Government actually delivers because this can be many, many months, if not a couple of years, in the pipeline”.

After the Morrison Government sat on its hands for almost 12 months with regard to the labour shortage, Dutton now complains it will take a long time to deliver the increased Migration Program!

Dr Abul Rizvi is an Independent Australia columnist and a former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration. You can follow Abul on Twitter @RizviAbul.

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