Coalition’s visa privatisation will torpedo Australia’s borders

Following his stellar expose last month, investigative journalist, Michael West, has done another excellent job exposing the cabal of vested interests behind the Morrison Government’s plans to privatise Australia’s visa system:

Flemington market’s fruit and vegetable mogul Santo Peter Tripodina and his 38-year old son, property developer Adrian Tripodina, have emerged as mystery power-brokers behind one of the two bids for the Federal Government’s $1 billion visa privatisation.

Together with longtime Packer lieutenant Ashok Jacob’s Ellerston group of companies, the Tripodinas will be providing the financial grunt behind the Australian Visa Processing Pty Ltd consortium. The front man for the AVP bidders is Scott Briggs, a friend and political advisor to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

An investigation by michaelwest.com.au has revealed the Tripodinas are the major shareholders in Pacific Blue Capital. Scott Briggs is chief executive and Adrian Tripodina is executive director…

Final bids for the visa processing contract were submitted to the Department of Home Affairs on June 28 and the government has said it will advise on the outcome in October.

The Tripodina family has been reported as being members of the Liberal party in Scott Morrison’s electorate and Adrian has donated money to the Party in the past. It also has investment links to the ultra-wealthy Vidor family, property and hotel moguls from Sydney’s eastern suburbs…

Morrison, as well as Immigration Minister David Coleman, who previously worked with Briggs at Nine Entertainment, have recused themselves from the process due to their association with Briggs but until now the deep involvement of the Tripodinas in the tender, and their possible connection with the PM, has not been documented…

While the Government considers the rival bidders, it is interesting to note an increasing push by some parliamentarians to demand transparency from those who bid for government contracts.

The first assistant secretary of the immigration department, Andrew Kefford, recently labelled the privatisation of Australia’s visa system as the “most significant reform to the Australian immigration system in more than 30 years”, and claimed that it would make the “visa business” profitable by including “premium services for high-value applicants”, different access for those able to pay more, as well as “commercial value-added services”.

However, the experience of the United Kingdom, which privatised its visa system in 2014, has been far from complimentary. There, the Dubai-based firm that won the government contract has been accused of exploitation and turning the visa system into ‘pay-to-win’, as documented last month by The Independent:

VFS, which has its headquarters in the UAE but is owned through holding companies in Jersey, the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg, faces claims of “gross maladministration” and “aggressive” selling of optional services since taking the UK government contract in 2014…

People applying through VFS – the majority of whom are from lower-income countries, with a quarter from south Asia – have said they missed flights and were wrongly denied visas due to delays and administrative errors, including apparent failure to scan vital documents.

Others said they had faced a barrage of “optional” services on the VFS website, ranging from document checking for around £5, to a “super priority” visa service costing as much as £1,000, which some said failed to deliver on the fast-tracked service promised. Lawyers said these additional services could exploit vulnerable migrants who may feel pressured to spend more to secure visas.

Meanwhile, VFS has increased its average revenue per applicant by 38 per cent between 2016 and 2018 by selling more premium services, according to an analysis of group accounts filed in Luxembourg.

Prior to the contract, the majority of UK visa applicants could submit their applications in British embassies or consulates, where their documents would be processed and decisions would be made, and where there was no system of offering priority or “added value” services.

But when the service was outsourced in 2014, decision-making was concentrated in larger hubs run by VFS, which the Home Office said at the time would “improve the efficiency and consistency” of decision-making.

Fees have increased since then, with the cost of applying for a standard visit visa – the most popular type – rising by 14 per cent, from £83 in 2014 to £95 in 2019. Applications for settlement have increased from £885 to £1,523, a rise of 72 per cent…

The figures come following widespread concern over the privatisation of the Home Office’s in-country visa system, which was outsourced to French firm Sopra Steria in November and has since, according to lawyers, offered a “substandard” service for “inflated” prices.

No matter which way you cut it, it is a staggering decision to outsource Australia’s visa processing. Quite apart from the inevitable cost increases as a monopoly supplier loads up their profits, it is about sovereignty. Governments must provide these essential services, they must be sacrosanct and marked ‘never to be outsourced’. The inevitable outcome from visa privatisation will be corruption and ‘pay-to-win’, with those willing and able to pay extra fees granted priority treatment, as witnessed in the United Kingdom.

How can the Australian Government control immigration numbers when it adds a profit motive and turns the visa system into a quantity-based business? It cannot.

We have already seen what happens with the international student market, whereby Australia’s universities have destroyed entry and teaching standards in order to pull in as many full fee paying students as possible.

Clearly, privatising Australia’s visa system carries enormous risks. It will torpedo Australia’s borders, drive private monopoly profits, and place Australian taxpayers on the hook when the inevitable disaster that follows needs to be fixed down the road.

There is no way any independent and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis would have resolved to outsource Australia’s visa processing. It is another prime example of Australia’s ‘Game of Mates’.

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

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Comments

  1. Adrian has donated money to the Party

    Therein lies the problem. As if the founding fathers of the constitution would have been ok with politicians being beholden to a foreign power via “donations”. The fake left refuses to get the AEC to adequately fund the political parties and therefore the outrageous corruption continues.

    • True. It is not the existence of the extreme carpetbagging, rent seeking and ‘slave owner’ mentality of the LNP Right that we need to berate. They will always be among us and suffer from an ideological pathology that cannot be cured. They’d privatise and sell their own mothers if they stood still long enough to untie the apron strings.

      Instead, it is the insipid and gormless Left that is truly deserving of contempt. Led into the nihilistic wasteland of neoliberalism by Hawke/Keating, successive ALP leaders promise that the next electoral waterhole is out there – somewhere – as their life blood dries out in the sun and increasingly witless “leaders” stay the course muttering nonsense and having deluded visions that affirm their purity.

      The ALP seem to be conducting an ideological beauty contest in the desert with The Greens when the water ran out long ago, cell phone reception with the electorate was lost miles back and the ‘Indians’ just appeared on the horizon.

      You don’t need to be a political diagnostician to notice that smell of death on Albo.

      I can no longer be bothered with the Australian Left. They are on a political Sandakan death march with no one but themselves as tormentors as they ask “Are we there yet?” through cracked lips. But they left the Australian people behind 30 years ago and are victims of political climate change. Pissing in each other’s pockets is not the sort of precipitation that will save them.
      It is only by shutting down mass immigration and beginning to restructure an economy befitting of what the Australian people want and need that they can be saved. But that’s too hard for a political movement that has spent too long in the neoliberal sun without a compass.

  2. But let us salute Andrew Kefford, the savvy official who definitely got Scotty’s telegrams about congestion-busting, respect-and-expect, and quiet australians. To call such an individual a ‘public servant’ would be purely ironic.

    • You cannot survive and make a career in the Australian Public Service these days if you don’t give advice that you ‘know’ is what the minister wants to hear. There are no straight talkers left in the APS, we were all ‘turned’, marginalised out or let go

      • Tell me about it, CJ. Lived that movie, 25-30 years ago. Try as I might, I was really hopeless at lying to the higher-ups, about the limitless ‘benefits’ of privatising TAFE and the CES. This Kefford bloke wouldn’t even blush. I’m jealous.

  3. How can visa processing be privatised? What is it that the government is meant to do now? How can “value add” services be provided? This is just an absurd concept and I don’t understand why more hasn’t been made of it by the opposition parties.

    • It means a private for profit company will now control who comes and goes to Australia. So our politicians effectively sold our sovereignty and national security.

  4. I used to work with Andrew Kefford – seems he has ‘turned’ to say shit like that. Everyone can see that this is yet another exercise in privatising something that should not be. Making administrative judgements and decisions based on statutes, powers and authority is not something you want private companies doing. You want experienced, well resourced, public servants doing this work. You resource it to process applications in a timely way according to any quotas set by the government of the day, not so as to position your company for profits and permitting ‘high value’ people to the front of the queue for a fee…. It seems that cost recovery is used where it shouldn’t be and not where it should in the modern way of government.

    I don’t know of one privatisation that has not cost taxpayers, occasionally better services, but more often not (CBA, Qantas, toll roads, energy sector….) Privatising visa processing makes as much sense as privatising the Treasury….

    Truly, the only way to make it big in Australia is to donate to the Liberals and lobby to get a lucrative, government contract doing something that the government used to do. There are ‘mates’ setting up drug testing corporate shells as we speak.

    We, and Labor, can ask all the questions we like. If the Government doesn’t like the answers, their lead men and women are expert at not answering, diverting, obfuscating and lying. They all exhibit the kind of nasty, brutish and morally bankrupt behaviours that got them into politics in the first place.

    And, not a journalist anymore with any significant reach to call out these grubs that run our country into the ground.

    Fuck I am getting angry. What’s next, selling passports? Oh wait…

    • The old strategy of outsourcing, based on you know the people won’t like what you’re doing, so it will give them the ability to control the outcome, but blame someone else. Standard stuff.

      • Yes, been standard for few years now 8mill. The point is, we used to have people in the APS that would tell them this was a bad idea. The senior people since the 90s are all yes men and women often brought in by the govt of day due to having a ‘compliant’ mind.

        And, you are right. When something goes wrong in Nauru, the Government can say, it wasn’t us, it was the service provider (that (not said) we badly manage and excessively remunerate)….

  5. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Oh come on. It’s 101 economics that everything runs better with the profit motive! I think you will find that most people don’t really care about this issue as long as they don’t arrive by boat. By balloon is ok, and would be kinda cool.

  6. It’s yet another entity to be monetised for the ultimate aim of the globalists. It’s in their interests to drain every $ from us eventually.

  7. Stewie GriffinMEMBER

    Multicultural Australia was the first step in opening the borders, this is simply step two.

    It will make zero difference to the end result, the dissolution of Australia as a society and cohesive nation and its transformation into an totalitarian economic zone. This is who we are now – EZFKA.

    But don’t worry, just have a Kebab and cup of Pearl Tea – I mean this is what we traded our cohesive, high trust society and welfare state for.

    Then as you’re being financially sodomized, bite the pillow and think of all the diversity and how much stronger and more united it will make us.

    https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/mothers-arrested-in-raids-over-allegedly-fraudulent-family-day-care-scheme-20190911-p52q77.html

    • These schemes were set up to pay providers instead of clients, as the providers included mates. Job Services, NDIS, aged care, all of them rortable and we are lucky to catch a few now and then.

      What grubs, vibrant ones too, but I’m certain Aussies are in on the act too. It’s the age of greed and fuck you for Aussie business owners these days it seems to me.

      • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

        “What grubs, vibrant ones too, but I’m certain Aussies are in on the act too.”

        Without a doubt they are – and as Leith’s article points out, more often they’re implementing it from the top as a form of control fraud.

        Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming any particular group of immigrants or the fault of any single culture we have imported into Australia, I am saying that this is the inevitable outcome of human behaviour in general in a society with no cohesive values binding it together – IMHO it a sign of the evolution of Australian into a low trust society.

        Multicultural communities lack — a civic consciousness, a sense that we live life embedded in community and nation, that we owe a debt to community and nation and that the essence of the admirable life is community before self, instead without that sense of civic community, it is every man for himself or at best, in the interests of whatever cultural clique one identifies with.

        Corruption, rent seeking and abuse of power definitely existed prior our vibrant multicultural society, but the sense of SHAME and the risk of social ostracism were both powerful social inhibitors to such behaviour – cross the line at your peril and risk a good old fashion ‘tar and Feathering’.

        For SHAME to work as an effective social motivator, requires the belief in the notion of TRUST – if you don’t TRUST someone, you will neither be surprised that they rip you off, nor feel any shame when you return the favour.

        Trust only exists when you have shared values and imho multiculturalism is dissolving it like acid from our own.

        A new report by RMIT University has found higher levels of neighbourhood ethnic diversity are associated with poorer mental health outcomes for people living there.

        And it appears it’s because they don’t trust each other.

        https://www.sbs.com.au/news/lack-of-trust-fuelling-mental-health-issues-in-our-ethnically-diverse-neighbourhoods

        IMHO the vast majority of the issues MB writes about stem from the fact that Australia is devolving from a High Trust society. They are great at identifying the issues, but there is zero attention being given to the cultural factors that are driving this change.

        Culture matters.

        • It’s hard to trust those around you that you can’t understand, if they go around speaking in a foreign language you don’t understand.

          Australian society is fragmenting more when we don’t all speak the same language in public spaces.

          The sheer volumes from each language-group means no need for assimilation or integration. When every other language-group is doing it, why not do it yourself, the standard has been set the Australian government have set that standard.

          And who’s going to trust those that keep to themselves, that can’t even give a smile, or nod of the head, or a ‘hello’ when you walk past them in a neighborhood street?

          SBS probably wants you to think it’s the bad whyties that aren’t trusting, as opposed to new arrivals that aren’t engaging and therefore becoming a group to be not trusted.

    • It’s not just any Pearl Tea, but 12 different brands of Pearl Tea that taste exactly the same!! (it is all sugar)

      This is due to Australian government outsourcing the student visa system to the Universities, and the 457 visa system to the businesses. Now they want to outsource ALL visa to some dodgy for-profit outfit, and I will tell you where the next boom will be spousal visas. It will cost 20k, but the check will now become ‘self assessment’. The visa processor can make ten billion dollar a year, then run away before the government realize they approved 1 million visa every year. However voter will vote Liberal because Dutton ”protected our border” by being TOUGH on one single family from Sri Lanka.

  8. What’s your take on the other side of this? I.e. the argument that the system will speed up processing and thus reduce temporary visa numbers?

    You could argue that’s a case for digitising, but not a case for outsourcing, but it’s challenging when govt may or may not have the skills and resources available at present (due to lots of other big projects being on) to deliver such a big digital system.

  9. It is thoroughly depressing as the nation is being trashed. Even the poor experience of the UK does not deter them. Does not bode well if you currently have a young family as those kids might be growing up in an environment that ccould have more in common with the third world than the first as public services, infrastructure, etc. collapse.