There were about one million unprocessed visa applications when the Labour Party took control in late May of this year. This led last month's new Minister for Home Affairs Clare O'Neil to order a review of Australia's "completely dysfunctional" immigration system. O'Neil acknowledged that Australia is "in a worldwide war for talent" and that the country's present immigration policy makes it difficult for it to draw in and keep smart immigrants. "Australia won't be a popular destination because it's expensive and takes too long," he said. And even if you do arrive here, it's unlikely that you can stay. We must reconsider that.
The administration has previously acknowledged that the review's goal should be to reorient the nation's immigration system away from temporary visas and toward permanent immigration before it is finished in February 2023. When people and families lack confidence in their future, it is impossible to foster a sense of positive belonging for migrants. A visa system that is fraught with mistrust and deprives people of their savings also makes it impossible to foster this sense of positive belonging. The prevention of an increase in Australia's median age is one of the objectives of immigration, thus it makes little sense to charge higher visa fees to younger applicants who don't have substantial savings.
Because of the visa system's rigidity at the moment, Australia is unable to take advantage of international trends and conditions in other nations. There is a correlation between Australia's current labor shortages and South Korea's surplus of educated youth, as Jay Song of the University of Melbourne noted in a recent piece for Foreign Policy. The possibility of considerably strengthening people-to-people ties should be regarded in light of Australia's aim to improve relations with South Korea, but a complex visa system may prove to be a barrier.
Australia's visa policy ought to be viewed as a key tenet of its foreign policy. It symbolizes Australia's worldview—whether it predominantly perceives individuals from other nations as threats—as well as how it aspires to develop its own economic, security, and cultural capacities. The ability to attract, accommodate, and retain people will give governments a significant strategic edge because fertility rates are declining in many parts of the world.
I went to the Helsinki Security Forum earlier this month. Many of the most powerful elites in Europe I spoke with did not know much about Australia or spend much time thinking about it. It's possible that this was the case because the conference was focused on Europe and Australia has successfully switched to becoming an Asia-centric nation, but it could also be the case that there isn't enough Australia to draw attention to it. This should be viewed as a major issue if Australia wants to be a positive influence on the world.
Difference between the Australia Immigration system and the Canada Immigration system
Australia benefits from having a large immigrant population. Currently, 195,000 people are admitted to the country each year as immigrants. However, a comparable nation and significant competitor for talent, Canada, has an annual immigration intake of about 430,000 people, and that number is expected to increase to 450,000 in 2024. Ottawa has determined that Canada needs to dramatically improve its own capabilities as the United States becomes a less trustworthy security partner. This is the viewpoint that Australia ought to hold.
Australia Immigration so far
There is no justification for supposing that Australia cannot handle this. Politicians could naturally be afraid of inciting the same dangerous backlash against immigration that exists in many European nations. Yet in a remarkably short amount of time, Australia has accomplished a stunning transformation from a homogenous, isolated society to a highly diverse, globally connected country. It has done so while preserving a stable social environment. The parliament created by the federal election in May is increasingly beginning to resemble Australian society more broadly.
One of the most important instruments Australia has at its disposal to develop into a more secure, rich, and influential nation is immigration. A visa policy that makes it harder to accomplish that goal is counterproductive. Instead, a system that is quick, easy, predictable, and inexpensive would show that Australia is an ambitious and self-assured nation, not one that is worried, suspicious, or frightened.
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