There is no doubt this is a critical time for migration policy in West Australia. Importantly it can be used to help stem the flow of overseas arrivals (globally the life threatening coronavirus is now showing alarming rates of infection). In Italy for example, the Italian government has taken the unprecedented measure of limiting movement for 60 million people in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus.[1] Australia has now passed the 100-case mark of infections.[2]

Chief executive of the Australian Grattan Institute Dr John Daley said Australia could go one of two ways, “choose to close down the air borders”. If Australia does not close its borders to travellers “the country runs the risk of experiencing Italy’s exponential rise in coronavirus cases”. [3] Population Research supports the safest public health option, which means shutting down all overseas air arrivals.

Use State Migration to help combat the Coronavirus.

The WA Labor Government can start to implement migration policies, which will help protect West Australians from the deadly virus arriving on our shores. The McGowan Government has the policy weapons to help restrain the proliferation of the deadly Chinese coronavirus in West Australia. This can be done by the practical policy of implementing tighter controls on State migration.

But does the McGowan Government have the resolve to do this? The Labor Government needs to alleviate fears in the West Australian community. Taking Perth out of the Regional status for the visa occupation list would demonstrate a commitment to apply State policies where they can be useful in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. The Regional list was created in October 2019 to re –classify Perth as a ‘region’ to attract foreign students with visa work permits to live, study and work in Greater Perth.[4] Second the Premier needs to shut down the Students migration stream. Both these programs comprise over 700 occupations for overseas students and foreign workers to apply for.

The Student program started in October 2018 and is responsible for the increased demand for foreign student/worker visas.[5] For the year to December 2019 (calendar year) there were a total of 42,942 foreign students in WA, representing a rise of 6% on the previous year.[6] The Student stream has also contributed to the significant increase in Net Overseas Migration, up by 33% for the 2018-19 financial year.[7]. While those State migration programs remain active, there is a possibility that overseas arrivals will continue to gather speed. As a consequence, making the containment of the coronavirus more difficult.


[1] Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli, ‘Italy Orders Total Lockdown over Coronavirus’, 2020 <> [accessed 12 March 2020].

[2] Rachel Clun, ‘“Close Air Borders” to Prevent COVID-19 Spread, Experts Say’, WAtoday, 2020 <> [accessed 12 March 2020].

[3] Clun.

[4] Government of West Australia, ‘Media Statements – Perth to Increase in Attractiveness for International Students’, 2019 <> [accessed 10 January 2020].

[5] Government of Western Australia, ‘Media Statements – WA to Attract Best and Brightest International Students’, 2018 <> [accessed 23 December 2018].

[6] Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment, ‘International Student Data’, 2020 <> [accessed 25 February 2020].

[7] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 2019’, 2019 <> [accessed 19 December 2019].

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