Immigration Research West Australia (IRWA) is a public interest website. Since starting up IRWA it has been my good fortune to meet fellow researchers and politicians that share similar interests on immigration policy. Recently I met with Charles Smith an Independent Member of the State Legislative Council.

What initially interested me about Charles was that he is one of the few West Australian politicians asking some critical questions about the State Labor Government’s Migration program. Here is Charles asking a question to the State Education Minster about the large increase in the migration list targeting overseas students.[1] In the space of 2 years the Labor government have gone from tightly managing State migration to opening up West Australia to tens of thousand of overseas students with automatic working rights.

On election in 2017 State labor government presented a much more responsible migration agenda compared to the previous Liberal Coalition government. Making principled changes to the State’s migration list in 2017 by cutting the occupation list (at a time of growing unemployment) and terminating the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme for Metropolitan Perth. The McGowan government was clearly focused on getting the State’s unfortunate high numbers of unemployed back into the workforce.

However all this has changed and of immediate concern to Charles Smith MLC and IRWA is the McGowan government’s decision to implement a vastly expanded overseas migration occupation list. Transforming a tightly controlled migration list of 18 highly specialised medical professionals, the McGowan government decided to implement a new list of over 200 occupations aimed at the overseas student market. The timing could not have been worse, in June 2019 there where 85,000 West Australians unemployed (rate 5.9%) with youth unemployment (15 – 24 age group) fairing much worse at 11.2%.

The fact the overseas students visa doubles up as a temporary work visa suggests the opportunities for jobs will become even scarcer as more students/workers take up the offer from the State government to study in West Australia. Student visa categories can work up to 20 hours per week during study and unlimited on study breaks, the other student visa has no limits to hours worked and type of industry they can be employed in. All overseas students can apply for permanent residency through the State government Graduate Occupation Migration List (GOML).

What makes the McGowan Government migration policy decision perplexing is that only 24 of the occupations on the GOML are classified as short-term skill shortages. There is no demand in Western Australia for 185 positions on the GOML. Recent checks of the student visa data suggest the McGowan migration strategy is already having an impact with the number of overseas students/workers in West Australian currently 36,000 as at May 2019, a rise of 5% compared to May 2018.

Immigration Research WA will continue to examine and monitor the growth of the Labor government’s GOML. I appreciate very much that Charles Smith MLC is one of the few politicians making a significant contribution to the Migration debate in the West Australian Parliament. He should be supported and congratulated for doing so.


[1] Charles Smith MLC, Skilled Migration Farce, 2018 <> [accessed 10 June 2019].

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