Expert: Coalition’s visa privatisation carries “immense risks”

Former Department of Immigration Deputy Secretary, Abul Rizvi, has slammed the Morrison Government’s attempted outsourcing of Australia’s visa processing to the private sector, claiming that it carries “immense risks” for the integrity of the visa system:

[Abul Rizvi has] called for any proposed contract to be first vetted by Australian National Audit Office and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission before it is inked…

“The risks associated with visa privatisation, once Home Affairs has become totally dependent on a monopoly owner of the visa processing IT platform, are extensive,” Rizvi said in a submission to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee inquiry into the impact of changes to service delivery models on the administration and running of Government programs.

“Home Affairs has provided no explanation of how these many risks are to be managed.”

The essence of the alarm bell Rizvi is sounding goes to the commercial-in-confidence shielding from public view of the visa processing outsourcing program’s business case and the assumptions it is based on…

While there is still a paucity of official acknowledgement on who is bidding for the work, the two main contenders are known to be ‘Australia Visa Processing’ – a conglomerate consisting of Ellerston Capital, PwC, Qantas Ventures, NAB and Pacific Blue Capital – and Australia Post and Accenture consortium…

“Maintaining an IT platform for such an increasingly complex visa system will inevitably involve growing costs. Will Government agree to ever increasing visa application fees to meet the demands of the private company that would be the monopoly owner of the IT platform?”…

“Another ‘innovative’ way for the owner of the IT platform to increase profit would be through the extraordinary data the owner would hold,” Rizvi said.

“Australia’s citizenship and visa databases hold some of the most extensive and detailed data on Australian citizens, family and humanitarian sponsors, education providers, overseas students, tourists and companies who sponsor overseas workers. This database would be incredibly valuable.”

Aside from the issue of data protection, Rizvi questions if and how “the IT platform owner could use and/or sell the data.”

“While Home Affairs may argue it would never agree to this data being used inappropriately, the pressure from the owner of the IT platform to chip away at Home Affairs’ resistance would be relentless.”

The first assistant secretary of the immigration department, Andrew Kefford, recently claimed the privatisation of Australia’s visa system is the “most significant reform to the Australian immigration system in more than 30 years”, and said 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 in the United Kingdom, which privatised its visa processing in 2014, has been nothing short of disastrous, with the Dubai-based firm holding the government contract accused of rampant exploitation, providing a “substandard” service for “inflated” prices, as well as turning the visa system into ‘pay-to-win’.

Abul Rizvi is right. The plan to outsource Australia’s visa processing should be vetted by Australian National Audit Office and the ACCC before it goes ahead. This is unlikely, however, given there is no way that an independent and comprehensive review would approve the plan.

In addition to the inevitable cost increases a monopoly provider would charge as they load-up their profits, Australia’s sovereignty would be compromised as the system is inevitably corrupted and turned into ‘pay-to-win’, whereby those willing and able to pay extra fees are granted priority treatment, as witnessed in the United Kingdom.

Seriously, 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 witnessed what happens with the international student market, where Australia’s tertiary institutions have obliterated entry and teaching standards in order to suck in as many full fee paying students as possible.

Clearly, privatising Australia’s visa system carries enormous risks. It will swiss cheese Australia’s borders, drive private monopoly profits, and put Australian taxpayers on the hook when the inevitable privatisation disaster must be fixed down the road.

The Coalition’s visa system privatisation is another prime example of Australia’s ‘Game of Mates’ and must be stopped.

Governments must provide these essential services, they must be sacrosanct and marked ‘never to be outsourced’.

Unconventional Economist


  1. government outsource the visa business
    government blames any visa related issues on private business

    • Jumping jack flash


      Because governments and politicians are far too busy doing whatever it is that they do these days, to worry about insignificant things like visas!

  2. How is privatising a monopoly government business ever in the best interests of the average tax payer?

    It is economic vandalism writ large.

    Privatising the visa system is a means to put at an arms length a range of dubious decisions all with apparent plausible deniability and at the same time give a one off hit to consolidated revenue.

    An approach that embraces the stupidity of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  3. Even StevenMEMBER

    It does seem bizarre. What’s next, outsource parliament to the private sector? Oh wait… we’re effectively already doing that aren’t we…

  4. You can wheel out all the experts in the world to warn on this — but it will happen despite all the objections because CvntMo and his grubby off-sider are desperate for open borders. Save the developers, save the budget, save the GDP!

    • No, there is something more sinister to it than that.

      It can still be in government hands and we can have open borders.

      The avenue for corruption is about letting in others under the radar, by adding a layer of opaqueness to the process.

      The current process would at least have an avenue for whistle blowers, so privatisation is to reduce the efficiency of said whistle blowers, nothing more.

      The fact is has got this far without any noise means the ALP are on it too.

      The greens can be spoon fed what is so alarming about this, they’d still be too stupid to understand.

  5. I really want to know what ASIO and the federal police think of this, because for a government that constantly bangs on about national security, terrorist and the boats, this sure seems like an easy way into the country.

  6. It’s not immense risk, it’s immense profit!! If visa processing is a private company it’ll be ASX 200 listed!!.The only problem is it’ll go to a ‘mate’ of the Home Affairs minister without a public tender, because of, er, security concerns.