Politics Analysis

'Landmark' migration review slams years of Coalition mismanagement

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Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil before the National Press Club in Canberra (image via YouTube)

The Minister of Home Affairs, Clare O'Neil, unveiled the latest review of Australia's migration system. Dr Abul Rizvi examines the recommendations made in the landmark review. 

*Also listen to the audio version of this article on Spotify HERE.

THE REVIEW PANEL, Dr Martin Parkinson, Professor Joanna Howe and John Azarias, have delivered 38 recommendations in their report 'Review of the Migration System'.

My initial comments on each are below.

Review Recommendation


1. Adopt a clear set of objectives and principles to guide the migration system and form the foundation of a migration strategy for the next two decades.

Broadly agreed based on the principles proposed to date.

2. Ensure a single area of government, with deep expertise, is charged with stewarding the migration system, with all visa products to be designed and delivered by that department.

Strongly agree. The current splintering of responsibility in this space has contributed to policy incoherence, especially in relation to the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) and Pacific Engagement Visa (PEV) with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade often transferring risk to other agencies (at no cost to DFAT).

3. Develop an evaluation plan for the migration system, based on the outcomes government wishes to achieve through migration.

Strongly agree. This needs to be reported in a clear and simple fashion to the public.

4. Develop a data strategy to support the migration evaluation plan. The data strategy should cover all migrant settlement and integration outcomes (not just economic) and support investment in better program and outcome data.

Strongly agree.

5. Move to planning migration over a long-term time horizon (for example, 10 years).

Strongly agree but without a long-term target for net migration, including its major components, and public reporting of outcomes, this may go nowhere as has been the case with similar recommendations in the past.

6. Plan migration based on net overseas migration (which accounts for both permanent and temporary residents), rather than simply relying on permanent migration caps.

Strongly agree. See above.

7. Work across government – and with states and territories – to consider how best migration can help meet place-based objectives, particularly in regional Australia.


8. Revisit the allocation of places across the permanent skilled program. In particular, reconsider the size and role of the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP), noting more positive outcomes from the Significant Investor Visa. Consider how to manage the allocation of places to state and territory nominated and regional visas, including possible consolidation of these programs.

Agree. The BIIP needs a root and branch review by an independent body and not driven by self-interested stakeholders.

9. Recalibrate the points test to select migrants with high human capital who will make the greatest long-term economic contribution.

This has often been proposed by various academic groups with little practical detail on how it would be done.

10. Consider changes to the existing Global Talent Visa to improve clarity in the selection criteria and remove the need for a nomination.

Strongly agree. This visa is very high risk from a corruption perspective and must be kept relatively small and tightly controlled.

11. Rely on the expertise of Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA) to identify labour needs and market salary rates and provide deep insights and input in a way that links migration with skills and training


12. Remove the requirement for labour market testing (LMT).

Strongly agree. LMT has always been a charade and should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

13. Renew and strengthen the role of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM) as a tripartite advisory body.

Agree, but essential that the work of this body is made public and must not again be dominated by business interests only.

14. Draw on advice of the JSA to further inform this tripartite approach.


15. Increase the temporary skilled migration income threshold (TSMIT), index it to the Wage Price Index, and consider the adoption of age-adjusted thresholds

Strongly agree although age-adjusted thresholds may add unnecessary complexity. More important to consider the situation of regional Australia in this regard and the future role of designated area migration agreements (DAMAs).

16. Adopt risk-based regulation of temporary labour migration, with three tiers:

1. A "light touch" high salary cohort;

2. A "mid-level cohort’"(above the TSMIT, below the high-salary threshold of cohort one); and

3. Subject to further consideration across government, a lower wage cohort in sectors experiencing persistent shortages and who are most at risk of exploitation and displacing Australian workers with similar skills.


Regulatory effort should be highest for cohort three and lowest for cohort one.

Strongly agree, subject to the details.

17. Allow temporary migrant workers to move from their current employment to find work with another employer within the same sector or job family. Migrants could have up to six months to find new employment.

Broadly agree but note the risk of six months with no work/income.

18. Require all employers of temporary visa holders to register that employment through a light-touch process; those with a history of serious workplace breaches would be deregistered and ineligible to employ visa holders.

Strongly agree.

19. Require employer fees and charges to be paid monthly, rather than up-front, to facilitate mobility between employers and increase access for small business by reducing up-front costs


20. Provide migrant workers with targeted training on workplace laws and conditions based on the Pacific PALM scheme model.

Strongly agree. This training should be delivered by relevant unions. An even stronger role for unions should be considered.

21. Improve post-arrival monitoring and compliance including through coordination with the tax system, using tax file numbers (TFN) and single-touch payroll.

Strongly agree.

22. Review the drivers that have created a continuing "permanently temporary" cohort with a view to ensuring future cohorts do not emerge.


23. Ensure the primary focus of the Working Holiday Maker Program is cultural exchange and does not operate to tie migration outcomes to the performance of work. Subject to Australia’s obligations under trade and other international agreements, consider limiting Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visas to one year.

Broadly agree, subject to the details.

24. Introduction of a Parent Visa lottery to prevent four further application backlogs.

Lotteries are rarely a good policy instrument. One must question what happens to people already in the queue. Do they lose their place?

25. Introduce a cheaper, more attractive temporary visa five product for parents that might in the long term replace a permanent parent program.

Important to consider, noting the risks.

26. Review the Student Visa working hours cap, including whether unpaid work-integrated learning, internships and work experience are counted towards the cap.

Strongly agree. This is an area that requires much deeper examination.

27. Provide a Temporary Graduate Visa automatically upon study completion.

Not sure about this. Certainly makes sense for those completing high-quality courses at high-quality institutions.

28. Align the duration of the Temporary Graduate Visa with the time required to identify high-potential graduates who will succeed on a permanent skilled visa. Within these parameters, minimise the time former students can remain in Australia on a temporary basis.

The Temporary Graduate visa is too late to be considering these issues. They should be considered at the initial student visa grant stage.

29. Explore options to provide a certain and direct permanent residence pathway for a very narrowly defined group of students.

Agree, subject to the details.

30. Align the English language requirements of the Student and/or Graduate visas with skilled visa English language requirements.

Agree, subject to the details.

31. Move from the genuine temporary entrant criterion to a genuine student test (GST).

Agree. The GST would need to be clearly defined using objective and subjective criteria.

32. Revisit the scope of settlement and integration support programs, with a view to making them more responsive to local differences in settlement location, and migrant needs.


33. Review the newly arrived resident waiting period (NARWP) to help improve government understanding of the impacts of this policy measure on migrant outcomes.


34. Invest in social enterprises and others that focus on the drivers of migrant economic integration, including for cohorts who face particular barriers in the labour market (such as migrant women, and humanitarian entrants).


35. Lead alongside states and territories a strategy to oversee efforts to streamline skills recognition, particularly for those occupations that can deliver the most benefit to Australia.

Agree. Particularly important for traditional trades.

36. Examine visa processing arrangements for South-East Asia and the Pacific, to ensure we are presenting a welcoming face to our region, while balancing risk.

Agree, subject to funding.

37. Invest in the Department of Home Affairs’ capability to deliver the migration system, including through ongoing investment in ICT systems, technological adoption and data capabilities.


38. Undertake a phased program of legislative review and reform.



*This article is also available on audio here:

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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