New Government: What does this mean for Australian Migration?

Over the past two years, migration in Australia has been at an all-time low. This has mainly been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, but another contributing factor has been the restrictive stance that the former federal government has taken regarding migration over the past few years. In 2019, there were almost 2 million temporary migrants in Australia, compared to 1.5 million in 2022. Furthermore, there are roughly only 335, 000 international students in Australia currently – this is about half as many as in 2019 and there are only 19, 000 working holiday makers – approximately 85% fewer than in 2019. The former federal government’s largely restrictive approach to migration in Australia can be seen through their policies such as shifting the cap of permanent visa grants from 190,000 grants in 2014-15 to 160, 000 grants in 2018-19.

Furthermore, there was a recent push to increase the discretionary power of the Immigration Minister in cancelling people’s visas based on character grounds. This was called the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill and has been debated and rejected twice previously, in 2019 and again in October 2021. It was again introduced in February 2022, however, did not make it to a vote before the election. The Migration Act 1958 (Cth) has been amended previously, giving the Minister more discretionary powers, which may lead to more cancellations. For example, in 2014, the Ministers powers were broadened, resulting in an increase from 76 visa cancellations in 2013-14 to 983 cancellations in 2015-16.

The former approach towards migration together with the travel and border restrictions that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, has created a skills and work shortage in Australia resulting in a domino effect upon the economy. The Business Council of Australia has subsequently been pushing to increase the migration program cap to catch up on the lost skilled migration.

So, what can we expect under the new Labor government in respect to migration policies? Although there have not been any definitive answers yet, there has been some indication by the party. For example, the Labor government has outlined that it will encourage temporary visa holders to consider permanent residency where they have priority skills which are in shortage and that they well ensure that no migrant is permanently temporary. The Labor government has placed an emphasis on favoring the grant of permanent visas where it is just, over the arbitrary granting of temporary visas in order to patch-up the skills shortage. The proposed reasoning for this is to ensure protection against the exploitation of temporary migrant workers, who often end up underpaid. In order to promote this principle, the Labor government has outlined some protections that it will utilize including:

  • Requiring temporary migrants to be paid in accordance with Australian awards or enterprise agreements and to have their wages paid into an Australian bank account.
  • Ensuring temporary migrants are protected by Australia workplace law and are not exploited through sham contracting or unethical labor hire practices give them.
  • Offering them ‘whistle-blower’ status if they are providing evidence of exploitation.

Ultimately, although there has been no specific indication as to any increase in migration intake, there has been an indication as to further working protections being offered to temporary visa holders as well as an emphasis on promoting permanent resident grants for those working in areas of shortage.

If you are concerned about the cancellation of your visa, want to make the shift from temporary to permanent residence or want to analyze your working visa options, Straits Lawyers are here to help. Simply send us an email at or give us a call on 8410 9069 to arrange an appointment for an online interview.

Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice and Straits Lawyers will not be legally responsible for any actions you take based on this article.

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