Connecticut, US

Sep 28 2018

New Prime Minister May Shift Focus for Immigration


The situation

Australia’s new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was sworn in on August 24. While retaining the Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, he announced a separation of the immigration function within that ministry and the appointment of David Coleman as the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs.

A closer look: one month later

  • Harnessing economic benefits. The separation of the immigration portfolio from the law enforcement super ministry – a ministry that covered a wide range of national issues – has signalled a renewed focus on the economic benefits of migration but with attention on remaining sensitive to ongoing concerns about Australia’s ability to manage the pace of migration, particularly in Australia’s large cities. 
  • Focus on addressing the infrastructure deficit. 
    • Former Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge, has been moved to the Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population Portfolio, which would include the key responsibility of population and infrastructure planning, presumably taking into account the impact of the size of the migration program and settlement patterns of migrants.
    • The settlement of the majority of migrants in Australia’s two big cities, Sydney and Melbourne, has created a suite of social, economic, infrastructural and environment challenges with renewed attention on the ability of infrastructure in these two cities to keep up. At the same time, regional Australia continues to suffer from labour shortages. Future policies are likely to encourage more migration to regional Australia.  


Key priorities

Based on public announcements and comments since the reshuffle, the key priorities for the Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs administration will be:

  • Focus on regions. Revisions to new and existing programs aimed at encouraging more migrants to settle outside major cities.
  • Supporting innovation. Continuing the focus on innovation and attracting top talent through boutique schemes such as the pilot Global Talent Scheme and the trial Entrepreneurs Supporting Innovation in South Australia Visa.
  • Australian jobs first.  Ensuring an improvement to the quality, contribution and integration of skilled migrants, while prioritising Australian workers for jobs.
  • Compliance. Reprioritising resources toward integrity and monitoring, for example through increased monitoring of companies sponsoring foreign workers.



It is expected that there will be greater recognition of the economic benefits of skilled migration, and potentially new programs to entice applicants for niche roles or seeking to settle in regional areas.  At the same time, mandatory labour market testing and focus on compliance with sponsorship obligations is set to continue.


Over recent years, as the immigration function had been absorbed into the law enforcement super ministry of Home Affairs, permanent and temporary migration numbers have effectively been reduced with a change in approach to migration program planning levels and heightened criteria with a focus on integrity.  These have led to:


  • Reduction in the grants of permanent visas. By redefining planning levels from ‘targets’ to a ‘ceiling’, the number of permanent visas granted dropped by some 10% last year compared to levels in 2013-14.
  • Decrease in temporary visas. In 2017, the number of Subclass 457 visa holders in Australia fell for the third year in a row.
  • Increase in numbers of bridging visa holder numbers. At the same time, processing delays have led to record numbers of non-citizens on bridging visas, the mechanism by which individuals can remain lawfully in Australia while waiting for the visa application to be decided.


Looking ahead

Fragomen will report on the changing Australian immigration landscape as new policies are enacted. Access Fragomen's blog on this topic here. Keep up to date with all the changes at our dedicated page here.

If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected].

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