The budget has boldly predicted a jump to pre-pandemic migration levels, with 434,000 migrants expected to arrive by 2024. To funnel this towards skilled labour, the Government has redistributed 10,000 partner visa places into the skilled migration stream. This pivot means that the skilled migration stream now comprises 70% of the entire permanent migration scheme.
For the international student population that the Government thumbed its nose at over the pandemic, there will be the exceptionally generous provision of ‘waiving the application fee for students who arrived over the last thirty days’. Whether this hodgepodge offering will genuinely repair the damage caused by the Governments callousness towards international students remains to be seen.
In a rare display of empathy, the Government has lifted the total humanitarian places available to Afghan nationals to 26,500 over four years. With the cap on humanitarian places remaining frozen at 13,750 per year this means the additional places available to Afghan nationals will account for around 23% of all humanitarian places available.
However, anyone who perceives this to be a softening of our refugee policy need only look elsewhere in the budget to see the government is as hard-line as ever.
Operation sovereign borders will receive an injection of $136.7 million to continue policing those fleeing on boat. Offshore detention will land $482.5 million.
Slashes to the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Australian Human Rights Commission will mean less regulatory oversight for refugees once here. Refugee, humanitarian and migrant services will also have its funding cut by 20% over four years.
Taking in Afghan nationals while steaming ahead with the same restricting of refugee services hints that perhaps this measure might be a cynical sprinkle of pre-election empathy coaching rather than a genuine shift in Government platform.