Martin Place, Sydney, NSW
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the land we are meeting on today, and pay respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging, and Aboriginal Elders of other communities who may be here today.
I am pleased to be able to join you today and to discuss some of the Government’s priorities with you.
Since becoming Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, I have had the privilege of meeting a diverse cross section of the Australian community:
- people who have come from all around the world to work and to make Australia their home; and
- many, like yourselves from the migration industry, who have often been instrumental in bringing them here.
Immigration has been an important part of Australia’s success story and it will continue to be so in the future. It is important that our immigration programs and frameworks are working in Australia’s interests, and are meeting the needs and expectations of the Australian community. And it is equally important that we have mechanisms in place to support our migration agents industry. This is a priority of the Australian Government.
Recently my colleague David Coleman, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, outlined the key immigration priorities of the Government.
- Under the Morrison Government, we will run an immigration policy that is sovereign, focused, and fair.
- Sovereign, to ensure that Australia controls its own destiny.
- Focused, to ensure that we make intelligent, mature policy decisions based on our national interest.
- And fair, so that we honour our values, and the Australians who live by them - now and in the future.
You can find Minister Coleman’s full speech to the Sydney Institute online, at the Home Affairs website.
Part of having a sovereign system is having a system with integrity.
Importantly, the Government is also committed to ensuring the integrity of Australia’s immigration system, including the migration advice profession, which plays such an important role, particularly in delivering our skilled visa programs.
And I am personally committed to strengthening and protecting the Australia community, including through my work chairing the Joint Standing Committee on Migration, which recently inquired into the efficacy of current regulation of Australian migration agents.
As such, I am very familiar with the important role Registered Migration Agents play in contributing to the delivery of Australia’s immigration program through helping clients to navigate Australia’s legal complex migration system.
Migration agents lodge about 10 per cent of all visa applications and provide invaluable support for people migrating to Australia.
Your skills and knowledge are particularly sought by people seeking help with Temporary Skill Shortage visas, Employer Sponsored visas and Business Skills visas. And your skills as migration agents will continue to be important to assist people to lodge complete and accurate visa applications into the future.
Australia currently has more than 7,200 Registered Migration Agents and the majority do the right thing. But it is important to have checks and balances in place to prevent unscrupulous agents and unlawful providers of immigration assistance taking advantage of consumers.
The Government regulates the migration industry—through the Department of Home Affairs and the Office of Migration Agents Registration Authority—OMARA.
As you know, it is unlawful to give immigration assistance in Australia unless registered with OMARA.
A number of measures have been introduced recently to raise the standards of the migration advice industry as a result of recommendations made by the 2014 Independent Review of OMARA—the Kendall review.
- The Review found that entry qualifications into the profession did not adequately prepare graduates for practice in an area that is legislatively and socially complex. As a result, a Graduate Diploma in Australian Migration Law and Practice was introduced early last year to replace the Graduate Certificate as the prescribed course for registration.
- A stand-alone Capstone assessment was also implemented in July 2018. The February 2019 intake was the first time the Capstone was undertaken by candidates who completed the new Graduate Diploma. The May 2019 intake saw 25 per cent of candidates pass the Capstone, raising concerns about the readiness of candidates entering the profession. The Government makes no apologies about this pass rate because it is important that those entering the industry meet necessary standards to be able to deliver migration services to their clients.
- In addition, the Government is planning to revise the Code of Conduct for Registered Migration Agents to ensure the minimum standards expected of agents are clearly articulated. Registered Migration Agents have been consulted on this and feedback is currently being consolidated by the Department of Home Affairs.
Looking ahead, as the Minister responsible for the migration advice industry, I intend to work with agents to build the industry’s reputation to ensure a robust regulatory migration advice framework that prevents misconduct and unlawful advice. This is essential for the integrity of the whole immigration system.
Overall, the data indicates that regulation of the migration advice industry is working effectively. While the number of complaints has remained stable during the last three program years to 2018-19—at 700 to 750 complaints annually—the proportion of those that have involved allegations of serious agent misconduct has increased, resulting in an increase in sanction decisions.
While the Government is committed to improving integrity across the immigration system, you can be assured that we do not want to place unnecessary regulatory burden on the migration industry. In this regard, we will continue to pursue the deregulation of legal practitioners from regulation by OMARA, for example.
Your work is important to the future prosperity of Australia, and I look forward to working with you to help ensure that Australia’s immigration system is meeting the needs of business and the community.
Thank you for having me here today.