POST 5: LETTER FROM THE PREMIER OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA.

Introduction

In March 2019, Immigration Research WA sent a letter to the Premier of Western Australia. The letter-aired concerns regarding the State government’s recent decision to increase the State migration list by an additional 210 occupations. The Graduate Occupation List (GOL) was implemented in late 2018 with 210 occupations as part of the State migration permanent visa stream. Previous to this the McGowan government had a tightly controlled visa policy comprising State nominations for 18 highly specialised medical occupations on the West Australian Skilled Migration Occupation List (WASMOL). The GOL was developed and implemented by the State government to attract overseas students to Western Australia. There is a key difference between GOL and WASMOL.

Both the GOL and WASMOL form part of Australia’s permanent skilled stream, therefore the visas are capped and there is a limited number on offer. However the GOL was implemented primarily to persuade overseas student and their families to live and work in Western Australia, with the carrot of a permanent visa on offer once the studies are completed. The difference is the State government can control the number of State nominations through the WASMOL, which has a much smaller list of occupations than the Graduate stream. Therefore only those that have accepted the State’s visa offer will arrive in WA. With the GOL there is no such controls. For overseas students there is no cap on the number of students and their partners or families that will be able to arrive in West Australia to live, work and study. Overseas students will observe there are 210 occupations on the Graduate stream to apply for. And a permanent or long-term temporary work visa could be the successful outcome for enrolling to study in Western Australia.

What does this mean for Western Australia? It is without doubt a loosening of the McGowan government’s migration policy. The tight reins where put on State migration to ensure West Australians would be first in the job market, at a time when the State is going though tough times of high unemployment and very high youth unemployment. Previous Immigration Research Posts have provided several referenced quotes from the State Premier revealing that getting West Australian’s back into the workforce was the primary goal of the State government. But with the GOL and the huge increase in occupations available to foreign students, State Labor migration policy has clearly changed direction. The State migration website demonstrates this with the following statement, “State nomination employees will have to compete will all potential employees in the West Australian labour market to secure an available or advertised position”.[1]

Furthermore, it is debatable if overseas students drawn to Western Australia by the GOL, will end up getting  jobs exclusively in high skilled industries. Overseas students have automatic working rights on arrival in Australia (20 hrs per week during study time and full time during semester breaks). What type of jobs will they be seeking during undergraduate study? Will this intensify employment competition with WA’s youth unemployed in the semi skilled or low skilled labor market? Many of the overseas students arrive from considerably lower income countries than Australia; therefore jobs in the lower end of West Australia’s labour market may be attractive in comparison?

In 2017 overseas students made up 40.89% of West Australia’s net overseas migration. Over the next few months Immigration Research will review the outcomes of the State migration GOL policy. To find out more about the GOL and the huge increase in overseas students working and studying in Australia, go to Post 3

Immigration Research also expressed concern that the State government continue to support the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) in regional Western Australia. At a time when the Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs (DOHA) have uncovered serious integrity issues with this Scheme.. For example, there 2017-18 migration report concluded, “The RSMS outcome in 2017–18 was 6221 places, a 39.0 per cent decrease on the 2016–17 outcome of 10,198 places – with this visa program particularly impacted by the integrity issues outlined in the executive summary”.[2]

And the Executive summary cites security risks with visa applications; “There is now a higher proportion of high-risk cases across our programs, with applications lodged by individuals with complex immigration histories, including extensive travel histories, unsuccessful visa applications and/or periods of being unlawful in Australia. These require increased scrutiny, including more character and bona fides checks to ensure that the Australian community is protected”.[3] How can this be producing good outcomes for Western Australia? Yet the State Premier continues to support the RSMS (permanent visas) in regional Western Australia.

The RSMS has been in big demand in WA. From 2012-2017 a significant 25,606 RSMS where granted in Western Australia (36% of the RSMS program). This is high when considering WA constitutes 10.8% of Australia’s population. The most recent demand for the RSMS shows WA is still the intended residence for the major proportion of applicants (31.5%), next comes Queensland at (20.2%).[4]

Published below is the letter Immigration Research received from the State Premier Mark McGowan.

[1] Migration Western Australia, ‘Migration WA – Occupation Lists’, 2018 <https://www.migration.wa.gov.au/services/skilled-migration-western-australia/occupation%20lists> [accessed 23 December 2018].

[2] Department of Home Affairs, ‘2017-18 Migration Program Report’, 2018 <https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/report-migration-program-2017-18.pdf>.

[3] Department of Home Affairs.

[4] Department of Home Affairs.

 

Premier of Western Australia
Our Reference: 59-097995
Mr Jim Anthony BS (Hons)
Immigration Research West Australia
jim@irwas.org

Dear Mr Anthony

Thank you for your letter dated 27 February 2019 regarding the size of the State Nominated Migration Program and integrity concerns for the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS).

It is the State Government s priority to place Western Australians first when it comes to securing jobs in the State, and to continue to grow and diversify the Western Australian economy.To this end, the McGowan Government recognises the importance of carefully targeted skilled migration as a source of skilled labour for employers, where there is a genuine need to attract overseas workers, and where the positions cannot be filled locally.

As you have mentioned, the Graduate stream of the State Nominated Migration Program commenced on 25 September 2018. The purpose of the stream is to stimulate the growth of the international education sector and the diversification of the State’s economy. This will create jobs for Western Australians in a wide range of industries including tourism, hospitality, accommodation, retail and education.

The Graduate stream has been implemented to ensure the best and brightest graduates with qualifications and experience relevant to the needs of the Western Australian labour market will be selected. As the program is capped,this helps minimise any impact on the employment or wages of local residents.

The RSMS allows regional employers to source overseas skilled workers for regional areas where the positions cannot be filled by local workers. The Western Australian Government strongly supports measures that help to ensure visa holders, employers and Registered Migration Agents comply with the visa conditions and responsibilities specified in the Australian Governments immigration legislation and regulations.

To this end, I note the Commonwealth Government has established Taskforce Cadena to target and disrupt visa fraud, illegal work and the exploitation of foreign workers. Further information on Taskforce Cadena can be found on the Department of Flome Affairs website at http://www.abf.aov.au/about-us/taskforces/taskforce-cadena

The State Government takes the training of locals for local jobs very seriously. A TAFE fee freeze has been implemented to provide stability for local Western Australian students wishing to develop their skills, including young people seeking to enter the workforce, and older people seeking to upgrade their skills as they change careers and job roles. This gives certainty to students that the cost of their training will not increase in the term of this Government.

The McGowan Government’s Plan for Jobs has a strong overall focus on job creation, including increasing the number of apprenticeships and traineeships to ensure the State has a skilled workforce for existing and emerging industries.The new Jobs and Skills Centres are already helping prospective entrants into the State s jobs market get the right advice and information they need.

The Centres are one-stop shops for career, training and employment advice and assistance, with services provided free-of-charge and accessible to all members of the Western Australian community. The centres are located on TAFE campuses across Perth, with additional outreach locations also provided for regional areas.

The State Government also recently secured up to $126 million to create thousands of apprenticeships and traineeships, after signing up to the Federal Government’s Skilling Australians Fund National Partnership.

Thank you for raising your concerns with me.

Yours Sincerely
Signed
Mark McGowan MLA
PREMIER

2 9 MAR 2019

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