The aerial shot demonstrates the environmental destruction caused by the McGowan Government’s planning and development policies at Ocean Reef. This is the start of destroying 30ha of Bushland Forever 325 site and significant damage to the Marmion Marine Reserve, Abalone reef and limestone cliffs. This so that developers can build 10-storey high apartments, over 1,000 dwellings (3,000 plus people in a high conservation area). It does not get any poorer government planning than this, given the environmental damage and disruption on the surrounding suburbs and community.
It is outrageous that the McGowan government are mismanaging taxpayers land (it is crown land with some part-owned by the City of Joondalup). Who will benefit from this? The sale of land and the profits will flow to the Government land development agency Development WA and the City of Joondalup.
Population Research WA urges West Australian’s to make an appeal and send letters or get involved in any way they can. The McGowan government aim to implement high-density projects all over Greater Perth so the only way to make a difference is to submit public disapproval with out of scale planning and development projects.
The business case for this development applies the McGowan government fixation with growing Greater Perth to 3.5 million people by 2050. And therefor a significant portion of population growth (driven by overseas immigration) is being funneled into Perth’s North West Corridor. Therefore all land, regardless of environmental values, is open slather for inappropriate high-density development.
The McGowan government planners appear to be careless in their approach. Ignoring reasonable concerns about the consequences of such a major development. The social impacts appear secondary in this instance. The Labor government seem to be preoccupied with their population policy turning Perth into a high-density city and adding another 1.5 million over the next 3 decades. This is of concern because they seem to be oblivious to much better options of achieving population growth.
Some great news, the Federal Government has ruled out an illegal foreign worker amnesty. Stating that an amnesty would send a dangerous message that it is okay to flout Australian migration laws. Rejecting the McGowan government’s recommendation for an amnesty for over 80,000 illegal workers operating in Australia.
This was a reckless proposal benefiting foreign nationals that overstay their visa, enter the country illegally or fail to depart and no longer have a legal right to be in Australia – all criminal offences according to the Migration Act 1958.
WA labor government amnesty proposal
The proposal by the McGowan government to provide employment for foreign nationals that break migration laws suggest a willingness to circumvent statutory migration laws. This was an extreme and unprecedented move by the McGowan government.
It would not alleviate the difficulties of having to deal with the huge build up of illegal foreign nationals currently in Australia. Australia’s temporary migration program is full with over 2 million entrants currently in Australia. Many of these are obligated to exit the country once their visa runs out. There were valid concerns that an illegal worker amnesty may entice temporary entrants to overstay and violate visa rules.
USA amnesty program
Observing amnesty programs in other countries reveals when migration law is cancelled the migration pull factor escalates and it quickly becomes uncontrollable.
The USA gave amnesty to 2.7 million illegal aliens after the 1986 reform. This decision lead to huge growth in illegal arrivals. The illegal migrant population rocketed from 3.5 million in 1990 to a peak of over 12 million in 2007 (see Table 1 below).
Illegal immigration is highly political. One side of politics (usually the left wing) are supportive of an illegal worker amnesty. Social conservatives on the other hand are more inclined to maintain migration rules and laws. The political bonus (as some put it) is evident in the USA were parties may use their support for amnesty to attract votes from ethnic minorities, particularly Hispanic communities
Illegal arrivals by air to Australia
There is nothing to doubt Australian political parties would seek to chase the political bonus an amnesty program could provide. Similar to what happens in the USA with ethnic minorities
Australia has undergone huge growth in Asia Pacific migration, especially from China, India, Malaysia and others. Illegal air arrivals from Asia Pacific are now a major concern; it has reached very high numbers (see Table 2 below).
In 2019-20 over 23,000 foreign nationals arrived in Australia by air without a legal visa. They have all applied for protection refugee visas under the Humanitarian program (see Table 2 below). Most of the foreign nationals arrived from countries not experiencing wars or civil turmoil.
With the exception of China, most of the citizens are not from countries experiencing controls on personal and religious freedom or political persecution. This is borne out by the fact the Government granted only 1,650 protection visas, yet there were 23,226 visa applications (Table 1 below).
In addition, many of these illegal air arrivals are able to appeal their visa refusal and can obtain a bridging visa in the interim. This has caused a huge backlog in of bridging visa applicants, which the Australian Government are struggling to cope with. A massive 333,000 bridging visa holders in Australia by June 30, 2020.
Table 2: Protection visa lodgements by citizenship (Top 10)
While the McGowan government spent time in parliament this week trying to defend the indefensible, arguing for an amnesty for foreign nationals who break visa conditions. The Morrison government set their sights on fixing Australia’s youth unemployment, which really is a tragedy. As the PM stated “youth unemployment sets young people up for a life of welfare dependency”.
The Morrison government will pay businesses up to $200 a week to hire young Australians. A measure that aims to reverse the significant increase in youth unemployment during the recession.
However, the Government still have a lot of work to do with cutting back their huge migration program for when the international borders come down. The Government is well aware that youth unemployment is adversely impacted by Australia’s enormous temporary migration intake (particularly by foreign students with automatic working rights). 
West Australia unemployment outcomes for September 2020
The Australian Bureau of Statistics youth unemployment figures paint a grim picture for September 2020 (see Table 1 below). There was an increase in West Australia’s youth (15-24 age) official unemployment rate to 14.3% (31,000 people). 
But this is only half the picture. Over 15,000 young adults have been stood down (zero hours) since the coronavirus outbreak in March. There are now 46,500 WA youth not in the Labour force, and an effective unemployment rate of 21.4%.
What about total unemployment? This did fair somewhat better the official rate falling to 6.7% (97,000 unemployed). But underemployment is still high at 9.3% this works out to 134,800 people who want more work, and are available for more hours of work than they currently have.
National youth unemployment
Total youth unemployment in Australia is rising to such levels that have led the Morrison government to provide extra funding for businesses that put young Australian’s first in line for new vacancies.
Australian youth unemployment rose to 14.5% for September, resulting in over 300,000 young Australian’s unemployed. It gets worse; nearly 110,000 have been stood down since the pandemic hit peak infections in March 2020. Total Australian youth out of work is 412,670, with an effective rate of 19.7%.
Table 1: West Australia youth labour force (15-24 age) September 2020
Labour force total (000’S)
Official total unemployed (000’s)
Official unemployment rate
Temporarily stood down (000’s)
Official unemployed plus stood down (000’s)
Unemployment plus stood down (effective rate)
March – Sep 2020
(Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020.)
One of the most important issues facing West Australian’s is population change and high immigration. The previous WA Liberal Party policy drove the state too extreme levels of population growth (over 500,000 more people between 2006-16). Growing by a massive 25% in one decade – higher than all other Australian states and territories.
Western Australia at the population planning crossroads
After a slight pause in high growth, the McGowan government set about returning WA to high levels of immigration. For the year ending March 2020, net overseas migration made up 60% of growth – total population rising by a substantial 40,000 people (growth rate 1.5%). This was higher than the growth rate for Australia’s most populated State of New South Wales (1.09%).
But then the Wuhan coronavirus hit Western Australia and overseas arrivals come to an abrupt end. WA is once more at the population policy crossroads.
And the good news is the 2020-21 state budget assumes much lower population growth driven by natural increase (births minus deaths). For the year ending March 2020, natural growth reached 18,000. The budget expects population to increase by about 21,000 in 2020-21 and 18,700 in 2021-22 (See Table 1 below). The bad news is the McGowan government are aiming to open up the migration throttle once more from 2023-24 onward.
Table 1: The population assumptions underpinning the 2020-21 State budget
In the wake of the Federal government’s 2020-21 budget, there was negligible commentary about the new policies and funds for Australia’s migration program. What direction is the Morrison government taking Australia’s future migration program?
The Government plan for the return of a huge migration intake
Permanent migration is back up to its pre-pandemic levels, 160,000 visas planned for 2020-21. And net overseas migration has been planned for a return to historical high levels, over 200,000 by 2023.
The Morrison Government targets temporary foreign workers for permanent residency
The Morrison government are targeting the huge pool (2 million plus) of temporary foreign migrants in Australia to fill up their permanent migration program. There is a large increase in partner visa places. Thousands of foreign students use the partner visa route to obtain permanent residency.
Partner and family stream places are increasing from 47,732 to 77,300 for 2020-21, comprising almost 50% of permanent migration. The low-level English literacy skills of temporary migrants already in Australia will require more funding for English language services at a cost of $121.1 million.
In the recent decade, Australia’s permanent migration program has gone through significant changes. In last years program, 65% of permanent grants were provided to temporary migrants already in Australia. For the next financial year, permanent migration is being downgraded to accommodate foreign migrants with low level English literacy skills.
The WA Labor Government is lobbying the Federal Government to set up an amnesty program so illegal workers can be hired in WA’s agricultural industry.  The Commonwealth estimates about 86,000 illegal workers are operating in Australia, although it is unclear how many are based in WA.
This does not account for the large numbers of people in Australia on visitor visas at June 30, 2020 over 93,000 tourists (some may be working despite having no work rights attached to their visa). The Migration Act 1958, states that it is a criminal offence to contravene the conditions of a visa and the penalties are extremely serious.
The McGowan Government have made a significant error of judgement
Proposing amnesty for illegal immigrants and illegal workers is a serious mistake. Rewarding illegal conduct is never a good idea.
There are over 2 million temporary visa workers in Australia (see Chart 1 below). Nearly half of these temporary workers are from underdeveloped economies in the Asia Pacific Region. In comparison Australia is a much higher wage economy, therefore the motivation for a large number of temporary migrants to overstay is significant.
The Federal Government appeared to be taking a more cautious approach to an illegal worker amnesty than the McGowan Government. Questioning why the Labor Government will prioritise jobs for illegal workers over signing up to a National Ag Workers Code, which would give WA growers more certainty.
However, within 24 hours they have made an abrupt change to their stance.  They have decided to consider developing an illegal worker/immigration program. The pressure on the Federal Government is coming from the WA Labor Government, the Victorian Labor Government and Farming industries.
This is an extremely questionable policy proposal. Rewarding illegal immigration and illegal workers could have huge ramifications. What about the 2 million foreign nationals on temporary visas in Australia at the moment? Will an illegal worker amnesty encourage thousands of temporary migrants to overstay their visa conditions?
What about immigrants who apply for a visa through legal channels? What is the point of making the effort if the Federal Government provide amnesty to foreign nationals who have deliberately violated the visa rules under the Migration Act 1958.
Population Research WA will provide regular updates on this extremely serious issue.
An illegal worker is a foreign national who has a legal visitor visa but is employed without obtaining a legal Australian work permit.
An illegal immigrant is a foreign national that has overstayed their visa conditions and may also be employed illegally.
The latest ABS population update for the year-ending March 2020 revealed a minor drop in net overseas migration due to the international border closure on 20 March 2020.  However, NOM is still way too high at 220,500 migrants, comprising nearly 62% of Australia’s total population growth (357,000 more people)
It is concerning that the Federal Government have not yet revealed an appetite to moderate immigration and population growth. There is clearly a range of labour force and economic factors to contemplate. Which suggests now is the time for the Fedral Government to adopt more conservative immigration and population projections.
Net overseas migration in Western Australia
How was the McGowan Government dealing with NOM migration up to March 2020? In 2017 the McGowan Government committed to delivering a measured migration program. But this did not last long under pressure from Industry lobby groups demanding a big increase in migrants. Greater Perth was opened up to over 500 regional visas and over 200 occupations for foreign students.
State migration policy needs to be underpinned by a sound methodology. This includes local workforce and unemployment assessment, housing industry capacity and infrastructure planning.
The latest ABS immigration numbers suggest the McGowan Government are misusing this great opportunity to set immigration targets in an orderly and staged way. For March 2020, NOM reached its highest level since 2012 (WA resource boom period). When the McGowan Government was elected in 2017-18, net overseas migration was less than 12,000, (see Chart 1 below). By 2019-20, NOM has more than doubled reaching 25,000, an increase of 107%.
State migration push and pull factors
State Migration policy has a substantial role in Australia’s permanent and temporary migration program. State Government’s can activate several migration pull factors or they can choose to inhibit a tide of visa applications. The pull factor is characterised by larger migration occupation lists with lower skill eligibility. State Government agencies and university groups etc, market the State as having much employment and visas opportunities to attract new migrants.
Governments’ that offers the most occupations, visa extensions and invitations, are the one most migrants will move to and vice versa.
The push factor remains for migrants from underdeveloped and developing countries. The motivation to move to another country involves many reasons, such as poverty, low wages, lack of good services, high crime rates etc.
Most of Australia’s recent migrants (temporary and permanent) come from poverty stricken countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Therefore the push factor is strong.
State Government can make a big difference to the skill sets invitations and the type of of occupations on offer. Which in some ways reflects a Government’s Industry policy direction towards high skilled value added technologies, as opposed to lower skilled Industry requirements.
A restricted visa invitation list can focus on higher skilled applicants with excellent English literacy. This in turn helps the State economy, productivity and complements the local workforce.
(Source, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020.)
The McGowan Government recently suspended the Western Australian State Nominated Migration Program. This was inevitable given that international and interstate borders remain closed. However, new migrants could flood into WA if the interstate borders are opened up.
Here is why the McGowan Government needs to postpone State Migration for a long period.
There are over 2 million temporary visa holders in Australia at June 30, 2020 (See Chart 2 below). The rise in temporary visas from June 2012 to June 2020 is considerable at 23.4%.
Immediately after interstate borders are opened, many of those temporary migrants will be looking to extend their visas or gain permanent residence.
They will be able to do this through using Australia’s online visa program. The State Government that offers the most occupations, visa extensions and invitations, are the one most migrants will move to.
State Government’s delivered over 21,000 permanent visas in 2019-20. States’ operate and control their migration occupation list.
In 2019, the McGowan Government included Greater Perth as eligible for regional migration. This led to regional visas comprising 13.5% of West Australia’s permanent arrivals in 2019-20. It is important to understand the smaller the State migration occupation list the fewer migrants will be enticed to that State or vice versa.
The McGowan Government has faired better in this regard than other States’. The Government chopped the State occupation list in 2017. The consequence of this was a fall in new migrant arrivals (See Chart 1 below). By 2019-20 Western Australia has dropped to fifth place as the State of intended residence for new permanent arrivals.
Western Australia is experiencing extremely high levels of youth unemployment due to the pandemic and the recession. Therefore, it is welcome news that there was a decline in permanent visa arrivals in WA for 2019 -20 (See Chart 1 below). West Australia made up 8.1 % of Australia’s total permanent visas for 2019-20. The indications are that the downward trend will continue moving into 2020-21.
When the interstate borders do open. It would be indefensible for the WA Government to expand the occupation list. There are over 50,000 Western Australian youth either unemployed or temporarily stood down from the Labour Force. Prioritising employment for West Australians’ before temporary visas (foreign nationals) should be the main focus of a reasonable Government.
Chart 1: Permanent migration program outcome: Western Australia 2010-11 to 2019-20
Temporary visas pose a big problem in the current economic climate.
Most temporary entrants have Australian work permits. The Federal Labor Government introduced automatic work permits for temporary foreign students in 2008. The outcome led to a significant increase in demand demonstrated in Chart 2 below. In 2010 foreign students made up 19% of temporary visas by 2020 this had increased to 27%.
Given the Wuhan coronavirus has caused huge unemployment (well over 1 million Australians not in the Labour force). Surely the Federal Government needs to consider cutting the number of hour’s foreign students are permitted to work.
There are more serious long-term unemployment implications for Australia if the Government does not address this. When the international borders eventually open the number of temporary entrants will continue its upward trend. And competition in local Labour markets will intensify.
Opening interstate borders also pose a predicament for State Governments’ with their high rates of general and youth unemployment. A possible remedy to reducing intense competition for scarce local jobs is through cutting or postponing State Migration Occupation Lists. As is demonstrated in Chart 1 above, this results in a significant drop in migrant arrivals.
Chart 2: Temporary visa holders in Australia (2012 – 2020).
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows alarming unemployment figures for West Australian youth (15-24 age). It is the McGowan Government’s “elephant in the room”. It is shown worrying trends of persistence.
Population Research WA welcomes the fall in the overall unemployment in WA from 8.3% in July to 7% in August 2020 But it’s youth unemployment which is proving a real headache and shows no signs of improvement, see Table 1 below.
The welcome downturn in overall unemployment should not come as a surprise. The State and Federal Government have poured a huge amount of taxpayer’s monies to stimulate Housing and Land development in Greater Perth. Those Housing Industry job gains and profits have bypassed many West Australian’s. A significant 33% of WA youth dropped out of Labour Force between July 2020 and August 2020
The effective unemployment rate provides an accurate measure of labour market problems.
In total, nearly 23,000 (15-24 age) have dropped out of the Labour Force since the height of the Wuhan coronavirus in March through to August 2020. They are are not counted by the ABS as unemployed. These are temporary stood down (rather than being unemployed). This means there are a total 51,250 WA youth not in the Labour Force at August 2020, see Table 1 below..
Table 1: Western Australian youth unemployment (15-24 age), official rate (August 2020) and dropped out of Labour Force (March – August 2020).
Labour force total (000’S)
Official total unemployed (000’s)
Official unemployment rate
Labour Force loss (000’s)
Offical unemployed plus Labor Force loss (000’s)
Effective unemployment rate
March – Aug 2020
(Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020.)
The official estimate shown in the Table 1 reveals 28,570 youth unemployed but this is not an accurate figure. The real figure is higher and closer to 51,250 displayed in Table 1. The effective unemployment rate includes the official unemployed and those that have dropped out of the WA Labour Force from March through to August 2020 (cumulative).
Population Research applied this measure to get a better picture of real unemployment. The effective unemployment rate for WA youth is 24.5% for August 2020.
Instead of using the ABS official headline rate to guide economic responses to the pandemic, the Federal Treasury use the effective unemployment rate. This takes into account not just those who are unemployed officially, but also those who have left the labour force or seen their hours reduced to zero. AMP Capital senior economist Diana Mousina agrees that is a “truer” measure of the real unemployment rate.
There is some bright news in the recently released permanent visa outcomes ending June 30, 2020. The number of permanent visas granted dropped to 140,366 for 2019-20. This resulted in about 20,000 less than the planned level of 160,000. This was due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.  However, granting 140,366 permanent visas is too high given the high unemployment and economic situation in Australia.
Most permanent visas go to temporary visa holders already in Australia.
Chart 1 below shows the total yearly and long-term average permanent visa outcomes going back over 36 years. The average is about 123,000. The permanent program started to escalate in the mid 1990’s around the period when the temporary visa program was implemented.
The number of temporary visas began to rise quickly due the Australia Government offering foreign students a permanent visa linked to there chosen course of study in Australia. Another draw factor was the Government inserted the provision of automatic work rights on arrival in Australia. Close connections have evolved between permanent and temporary migration as temporary migrants have increasingly sought to apply for permanent settlement in Australia.
Chart 1: Permanent visa outcome (Australia 1984-85 to 2018-19).
Australian Governments’ migration policies are beginning to unravel.
Over 90,000 of permanent visas (64.5%) where issued to temporary migrants already in Australia. The temporary migration program has created a huge headache for the Federal Government. Consecutive Governments’ mismanaged this program allowing free rein for temporary workers to enter Australia, whilst rejecting sensible policy options to cap and manage temporary visa numbers.
Today there are over 2 million temporary visas in Australia (June 30, 2020). Competing with unemployed Australian residents in an extremely tight labour market. It is difficult to predict how long this figure will stay so high.
There are several law impediments halting the Government scale down the number of temporary workers in Australia. There has been significant growth in dubious visa applications. A huge number (333,500 foreign nationals) have managed to obtain bridging visas. Many of those have applied for judicial review of the refusal or cancellation of a visa.
The demand for the family visa (permanent) stream has ballooned to over 214,000 applications in the pipeline for 2019-20. There was also significant rates of visa refusals in the partner category (includes prospective spouses) and parent category. Dubious applications in the family stream are difficult for the Australian Government to clear. There are Migration Act provisions, which may prohibit the Government from limiting the number of partner visas.
The partner visa backlog is not going to go away soon. Australia’s migration intake is predominantly from developing and underdeveloped countries in the Asia Pacific Region. Indicating the escalation in the partner visa applications may be driven by the prospect of moving to an advanced economy such as Australia?