By Simon Wetherell, MD at SW Consulting (Asia) Co., Ltd. & SW Consulting Ltd
They say a week can be a long time in politics, and that certainly proved to be the case recently in Australia. While I don’t want to get into a political discussion the events will have an impact on many Australian and Thai interests in Australia, or those looking at Australian immigration.
From an immigration point of view it was very interesting, and looked as though sweeping changes were going to follow. At the start of the week it looked like Peter Dutton would be challenging for PM, and he announced early in the week his policy view that he would slash the immigration quota by a third, reducing immigration numbers to 110,000. He had also shown his intention to reintroduce the citizenship changes (longer qualifying periods and higher standards) that were unsuccessful last year. Both of these changes would have had a large impact on processing and approval times, and was viewed as very unpopular overseas.
By the end of the week we had a new Prime Minister in Scott Morrison. When he appointed his new cabinet he retained Peter Dutton as the Home Affairs minister, but in a very clear message he removed him from any responsibility or involvement with immigration – which in my opinion very positive news.
So what does this mean in real terms?
Scott Morrison, in his role as the Treasurer, was a believer in high immigration as it helps the economy through growth. The decision to remove Dutton from immigration suggests that any of the former’s policies around reducing visa numbers, and hopefully the unpopular citizenship changes are something he is against and wants to put to rest.
With an election looming by May 2019 at the latest, there has been concern in the Liberal camp that One Nation and their policies have been taking away voting numbers. The conservative right of the Liberal party wanted to send a message that would get back this political following to shore up numbers.
However from Morrison’s actions it is clear that he has no interest in reducing immigration numbers – at least at this stage.
Another outcome in the last week has been a loss of time in parliament through suspension, wasted time and debates on eligibility, which means other bills before the legislature will be affected, meaning some now wont be passed during this sitting, and further the possibility that the proposed Citizenship bill will not be brought to life and shelved indefinitely. Given that the winner of the next election is far from certain this means that it may never be reintroduced – which in this writer’s opinion is a very good thing!
For those that attended my presentation last year the current political landscape is very uncertain for immigration law and it is a hot spot in political circles. Most Australians have an opinion on immigration so it will make it an election focus point. As such I highly recommend anyone that is looking to get visas or citizenship to do it as soon as possible while the law is certain, because as we have seen decisions can be made rapidly and this is one area where deals will be done or regulations made quickly, sometimes it would appear purely for political gain.
If I were to gaze into my crystal ball, I would expect a tightening of the skilled immigration policy if the economy falters from the Chinese and US sanctions fall out, and specifically in areas where skills are no longer in demand. On the family visa side, I eventually see English standards and financial means testing to be introduced after the UK Privy Council decision that allowed for that to happen in the UK. Changes to the Migration Law will also likely see a ban on unregistered overseas agents to allow only registered agents to operate globally (instead of just currently in Australia only), and the plan to separate lawyers and registered migration agents is still on the agenda but postponed once again.
MD at SW Consulting (Asia) Co., Ltd. & SW Consulting Ltd | International Speaker on Digital Marketing