The new Labour government has announced a Jobs Summit in September. One of the objectives of the summit will be to determine what role the future of migration has in helping to develop Australia’s economic future into the 2020s and 2030s. This will involve important discussions with community representatives, businesses and unions, and is likely to have far-reaching repercussions.
In the meantime, the Government is also faced with the urgent need to deal with a backlog of almost 1 million visa applications.
Although many people claim that this backlog is due to the fact that our borders were closed for almost 2 years, this is only part of the story. Of the 960,000 outstanding applications, 560,000 were lodged by people overseas, meaning that there are approximately 400,000 onshore applications which should not have been affected by border closures, and could have been processed during lockdowns. The fact that the Department of Home Affairs had funding reduced by $800 million by the previous Government is probably the most significant reason for the huge backlog, as this meant there were insufficient resources available to do the required work.
In a recent radio interview with the ABC, the current Home Affairs Minister, Ms Claire O’Neill stated that her department had decided to allocate more resources to deal with the processing problems. Further, while recognising that there are shortages throughout the whole of the economy she stated that there are some areas which we have an acute need to address; in particular, healthcare, education and aged care. For this reason, she flagged that offshore applications lodged by workers with skills in each of these areas will be prioritised. Her rationale for allocating resources to offshore processing is that a lot of the people who are given visas to work in Australia are actually already here, and so in order to address the skills crisis the government has decided to prioritise processing of offshore applications. Of course this means that the 400,000 applications which should have been processed during the past two years still appear to be no closer to an end result, the big difference being that the current government recognises that they are a problem which will need to be dealt with as soon as more critical applications are finalised.
If you would like some more information, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Migration Law team for further information.
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