25 November 2009

Priority processing - not fair

One of the Rudd government's first responses to the 2008 credit crunch was to announce that it would "do something" about immigration. Governments always have to "do something". Imagine if they announced they were going to do nothing?

First, despite the rest of their policies being all about stimulus, they decided to cut the overall intake. Oh well, that was to be expected.

Next, maybe because the general tone of the new regime is micromanagement, they came up with a bright "new" idea (the quotation marks are because it isn't a new idea at all, just one that most people have forgotten we used to have). Thus we now have priority processing of GSM (General Skilled Migration) applications, based on the CSL (Critical Skills List).
The result is that people who do not have an occupation on the CSL will be waiting at least another 3 years for their applications to be processed, regardless of how long they have been wating already or how far advanced their case was when the change was announced on 23 September. Particularly hard hit are some applicants who lodged before 1 September 2007, when the online application system was introduced. Due to the decision to throw resources into the new system, some paper-based applications were just coming up for finalisation in September this year after more than 2 years waiting, and are now thrown back to the end of the queue.

In an interview with rhe ABC program The National Interest on 13 November, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, was unmoved: "Quite frankly," he said, "if we decide [the immigration intake is] going to be 10,000 people next year, they might be waiting for 20 or 30 years". This ignores the main complaint, that people who met the requirements when they applied, and still do, are being forced to the back of the queue to make way for the so-called "priority" cases. See also the earlier interview with Mark Webster of MIA and Dr Zuleika Arashiro of ANU.

The underlying assumption is that immigration is like some sort of feeding tube going straight into the veins of the economy. By regulating the flow, and changing the mix of nutrients, the immigration technicians respond to the day-to-day needs of the nation. This is bolstered by a second assumption: that those same immigration technicians have developed an accurate set of tools for determining just which migrants are needed when, and how many, and what their impact on Australian society will be.

My view is that this is nonsense. Australia has had the most successful postwar immigration program of any country in the world. About 15 years ago, however, someone in Canberra decided that what wasn't broke neverthless needed to be fixed. One of the offshoots of this coup of the bean counters was the "migration industry", but that is another story.

We must never forget that migration is about people, and what has been done to thousands of real people waiting their turn and expecting to be treated fairly by Australia's immigration system is that they have been shabbily treated so that politicians can say they are "doing something".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I strongly agree with you. For the long-term prosperity of this country, the government should encourage even more young skilled people to join Australia workforce, not “cut” them or “stop” them. CSL is illegal and nonsense at all, it takes us back to the Stone Age.