November 10, 2020
On the 6 November 2020, Acting Minister for Immigration, Migrant Services & Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge provided the latest updates on borders, international students, visa system, vaccine and net overseas migration forecasts. This gives us an insight into where Australian migration is currently at and what we can expect in the near future.
Digital Visa System & Vaccines
The Hon Minister said that Australia has made further purchases of vaccines and now has a diverse supply of vaccines from different sources. He said that he was optimistic that these vaccines would work and that they would be readily available from March next year. He also said that certainly by the end of next calendar year (i.e. 2021), all Australians who wanted to be vaccinated would have the opportunity to be vaccinated. Vaccination would probably be prioritized for frontline health workers & the elderly. But a lot depends on the successful completion of 3rd stage trials which are currently underway for many of the vaccines.
By the middle of next year (2021), Australia hopes to have a sophisticated digital visa system, including the passenger card system. By digitizing, Australia is able to keep track of each individual that comes in to Australia, know if someone has been vaccinated (passengers can digitally staple their vaccination to their incoming passenger card) & not need to quarantine them. This will be particularly helpful for countries such as India in which many, because of very large populations, might not get vaccinated for some time. Those who have had vaccination can potentially travel to Australia. Some systems of validation of vaccination certification will, of course, have to be built. Of course, for all of this to happen a vaccine has to work. So it is important that Australia move forward carefully but steadily.
Internal borders are slowly coming down. The 25 km rule in Victoria ends this Sunday. From 23rd November, NSW is opening up to Victoria. Western Australia will open up to all domestic travelers from November 14. Queensland hasn’t decided to open, but the Minister hoped they would make a decision soon. So it is expected that by the end of November, Australia will once again have open internal borders throughout the country.
The Australian government is working to get borders opened slowly but safely. This is being done in a number of ways. Firstly, some temporary skilled migrants are being bought into Australia. Bubble arrangements have been started with New Zealand and similar arrangements are being made with countries such as Japan, Singapore, South Korea & some other countries where infection rates are low. But large numbers of people can only be bought in without quarantining because there just isn’t the capacity to quarantine very large numbers of people. So methodologies are being worked to ensure that large numbers of people can enter Australia without the need for large-scale quarantine.
Australia recognizes how important international students are to the country. Over the years, not only have international students contributed significantly to the economy but have also been an important source of new Australian citizens, hence contributing to its growth. Some pilots have been initiated. More pilots, in NT and South Australia, are being worked on and the Minister was hopeful that they would be up & running soon. In a normal year, Australia welcomes over 185,000 students. These are large numbers to bring into the country. Hence, it is important that it be done carefully & steadily.
Current state of the economy
The Minister stated that Australia had, so far, done as well as any country in the world, both from a health perspective as well as an economic perspective. Australia is in recession, but its GDP declined by only 7% in the last quarter whereas those of most of the other OECD countries shrunk by as much as 15 – 20%. The unemployment rate has not collapsed. Clearly, many people have lost their jobs but a lot of those have already come back. Consumer confidence is back to the levels it was prior to the pandemic. Undoubtedly, Australia is hurting economically but is much better place than many other countries.
Net Overseas Migration forecast
Net overseas migration, a combination of both permanent residents and long-term temporary residents (those who intend to live in Australia for over a year), will be negative for the first time in 75 years this financial year and also the next financial year, i.e. more people will be leaving Australia than coming into it. That has significant economic consequences considering how important immigrants are to Australia’s economy. So the situation in the short term would be challenging.