House debates

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Migration Amendment (Visa Capping) Bill 2010

Second Reading

10:52 am

Photo of Laurie FergusonLaurie Ferguson (Reid, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Migration Amendment (Visa Capping) Bill 2010 amends the Migration Act 1958 (the Act) to give the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship greater power to effectively manage the migration program.

The number of places in the skilled migration program available to applicants who are not sponsored by an employer continues to decline, as the government’s priority is to support demand driven—that is, employer sponsored—migration. At the same time, the number of pending applications continues to grow as the demand for general skilled migration visas exceeds the number of places available in the program.

The general skilled migration visa program has also become dominated by applicants nominating a limited number of occupations even though there are some 400 occupations that are acceptable for general skilled migration purposes. This has made it difficult for the program to deliver the broad range of skills needed in the Australian economy and the Australian labour market.

In the 2007-08 program year, of the 41,000 general skilled migration visas granted, more than 5,000 went to cooks and hairdressers. Further, there are currently 17,594 valid applications which have been made by people nominating their occupation as a cook or hairdresser which have not yet been finalised.

This matter is currently being addressed through priority processing arrangements. Under these arrangements, applicants that are sponsored by an employer, nominated by a state or territory government authority, or have an occupation which is in critical demand in Australia have their application processed before other applications.

However, these arrangements alone do not address the problem of large numbers of valid applications that continue to be made by applicants who are not sponsored and who are nominating occupations that are not in demand. Currently there are 147,000 primary and secondary applicants for general skilled migration visas waiting in the pipeline for a visa decision.

Amendment to ‘cap and terminate’ measures

To address these issues, the bill proposes to introduce a power by which the minister may cap visas and terminate visa applications on the basis of certain characteristics.

Currently, the Act gives the minister the power to make a legislative instrument in a certain class or subclass to cap visas and terminate applications for that class or subclass. The proposed amendments will enable the minister to cap visa grants and terminate visa applications based on the class or classes of applicant applying for the visa.

In particular, the proposed amendments will allow the minister to make a legislative instrument to determine the maximum number of visas of a specified class or classes that can be granted in a financial year to visa applicants with specified characteristics. Similar to the current power, the amendments will also allow the minister to treat outstanding applications for the capped visa as never having been made.

Characteristics that may be specified include the occupation nominated by the applicant, or the time at which the applicant made their application. The characteristics will be objective, and relate to information that is provided to the department when an application for a visa is made.

The characteristics that will be specified will depend on the purpose of the particular determination to cap and terminate visa applications and will be consistent with Australia’s international obligations. For example, if the determination is made for the purpose of limiting the number of applicants in the skilled migration program with the same nominated occupation, then a cap would be placed on applications which nominate that particular occupation.

To terminate a visa application is different to a decision to refuse a visa application. When an application is terminated it is taken not to have been made. Applicants who are affected by a cap will have their visa application charge refunded to them. Further, a visa application which has been terminated is not subject to merits review.

Application to the general skilled migration visa program

The amendments proposed in this bill not only provide a power to cap general skilled migration visas and terminate general skilled migration visa applications but are broad enough to allow other classes of visas to be capped. This provides the government with a tool for the targeted management of all aspects of the migration program which will be available as the need arises.

The exception to this will be protection visas. The minister cannot make a cap and terminate determination in relation to protection visas.

However, the primary policy imperative of the proposed amendments is to allow the minister to end the ongoing uncertainty faced by general skilled migration applicants whose applications are unlikely to be finalised because their skills are not in demand in Australia.

The proposed amendments will better address Australia’s skills shortages by limiting the number of general skilled migration visas able to be granted to applicants whose occupations are in oversupply, thereby leaving more spaces in the program available to applicants whose occupation is in demand.

This will allow the Australian government to deliver a skilled migration program that is more tightly focused on high-value skills that will assist in meeting the medium- to long-term needs of the Australian economy.

The government’s intention is to establish a realistic balance between providing the skills Australian employers need and ensuring the maximum opportunities for Australian citizens and permanent residents in a changing employment market.

This amendment is just one in a package of reforms the government is currently making to the skilled migration program to ensure that it is able to target skilled migrants with the high-value, nation-building skills that Australia needs.


This bill represents an important step in achieving the government’s objectives of a flexible skilled migration program that can be adapted to the economic and business cycle and the needs of Australian business and industry.

Debate (on motion by Mr Robert) adjourned.


jewel mahmud
Posted on 29 May 2010 1:05 pm

I have no words to explain the misery its going to bring for overseas student who has been working hard like dish washing for years to become a chef. Studying with their part time job to survive in this expensive city and getting emotionally involved. All we wanted is become a chef and maybe open my own restarent one day. Because when i first came to sydney 4 years ago, there was not much job for student as i was restricted to 20 hours work permit and obviouslly i m not a parmanent resident of australia. So i started with toilet wash then car wash then dish wash. I couldnt sleep for years. I was neglected and verbally abused almost every single day of my work life. Because they knew i cant quit. I became a man with very few option. I came to this country with bigger hope and spent lot of time of my life, my energy and money as it is very expensive to study in the college if you are an overseas student. There was no support for me whatsoever. I have no idea why such a wellfare country doing this to me but i know it sure will destroy my life and thousands of others. jewel.

Posted on 29 May 2010 4:44 pm

I cant even start to explain the pain, the misery the uncertainty this will bring to all Students, Overseas migrants dreaming of calling Australia home and hoping to build a better future for them and their families. Students who come to Australia especially from less develop nations come with lots of hopes and dreams. They come because they love to prosper and live the Australian dream. They leave their country, their parents, their loved ones and friends and come to Australia with the hopes of getting a proper education which opens a path way to settle down in a country that offers so much. Also, they genuinely want to contribute to Australia, to the country they have fallen in love with. Most students initially fund their education by selling there parents property or getting bank loans and then doing part time jobs (whatever the job is ) to pay their tuition fees and to survive in a expensive economy in the hope of getting permanent residency and then paying of loans and basically build their life by eventually becoming an Australian citizen.
Australia is a privilege country and every person who desperately tries to come here already knows that. Thats why all of these people especially students who work as cleaners, dishwashers and goes through immense difficulties during their student years deserves a chance to fulfil their dreams. The road these students take is not a bed of roses. Its filled with hardship, stress and emotional torture.
Australians proudly say in Australia everyone gets a Fair Go. But do these students, Immigrants get a Fair GO??? This legislation is Un-Australian. Each person who had lodged a GSM application has invested a lot of time, money and gone through hardship to fulfill requirements to make them eligible for migration. And when the rules change each year they go through the same thing over and over again to get the necessary requirements. Then they send the application to be processed in the hope of someday calling Australia home. Now with this Bill all the hopes and dreams of people who already love Australia, dream of calling Australia home will be shattered.

Tony Huynh
Posted on 3 Jun 2010 1:26 pm

I don't know how to share the anxiety with those that are to be affected by this. I just wonder why they must use a cap instead of a halt to further applications once they (the DIAC) have found that the number has reached a limit. This would prevent a massive shock to applicants who are living in Oz on bridging visa and hoping to get some sort of legal right to remain in this lovely country - at least for these people, keen on applying for PR.