Morrison Government’s visa privatisation creates “major systemic risks”

Immigration lobby groups are the latest to lash the Morrison Government’s plan to privatise Australia’s visa system, claiming it will create “major systemic risks” and is a “disaster in the making”:

In the latest set of submissions delivered to the Senate committee looking into “the impact of changes to service delivery models on the administration and running of government programs”, both the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA) and Migration Council (MCA) warn of major systemic risks…

The assessment by the MIA, which helps push through tens of thousands of employer-sponsored technology skills visas a year, grimly cautions that the whole automation of application processing is destined to fail and should be junked…

“It is difficult to reconcile the complexity of the current migration program with attempts to automate 90 percent of processing or to automate subjective decision making,” the MIA submission warns.

“The MIA’s grave concern over multiple aspects of the proposal leads the MIA to call for rejection of the privatisation of the visa and citizenship program and for the tender for this privatisation to be withdrawn.”

The peak body also said it believed “that privatisation and automation of application processing [will] be unable to adequately protect data that impacts national security and the privacy of applicant”…

The Migration Council cautioned the government may lose flexibility and control over how it responded to a “rapidly changing migration context”.

These warnings echo those from former Department of Immigration deputy secretary, Abul Rizvi, who last month cautioned that the outsourcing of Australia’s visa processing to the private sector carries “immense risks”:

“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”…

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

[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 Department of Home Affairs’ first assistant secretary, Andrew Kefford, recently declared the privatisation the “most significant reform to the Australian immigration system in more than 30 years”, and spruiked that it would make the “visa business” profitable by including “premium services for high-value applicants”, differentiated access for those willing to pay more, and “commercial value-added services”.

However, the real world experience has been far less complementary. The United Kingdom privatised its visa processing in 2014 and has been embroiled in numerous scandals, including systemic exploitation, ripping-off applicants, and making the visa system ‘pay-to-win’.

Proper due process commands the Morrison Government’s visa privatisation plan first be independently vetted by the Australian National Audit Office, the ACCC, and/or the Productivity Commission. This is won’t happen, however, since there is minimal chance that any independent and robust review would give its tick of approval.

Seriously, how can Australia’s immigration numbers realistically be controlled when a profit motive is added that effectively turns the visa system into a quantity-based business? It cannot.

All one has to do is look at the deregulated international student market, which Ross Gittins recently described as “defacto privatisation” whereby universities have “gone too close to turning undergrad teaching into a money-making sausage machine, where you have to be really dumb not to pass”. Basically, universities have crushed entry and teaching standards in order to push through as many full fee-paying students as possible to maximise revenues, with vice chancellors becoming “as money-obsessed as any company chief executive”.

Blind Freddy can see that privatising Australia’s visa system carries massive risks. The monopoly provider will inevitably raise costs to pad their profits, the visa system will be turned into ‘pay-to-win’, and Australia’s borders will become even more porous.

The Morrison Government’s planned privatisation of Australia’s visa system is another example of neoliberal ideology that ‘private’ is good and ‘public’ is bad trumping evidenced-based policy.

At a minimum, it must be subjected to independent scrutiny before going ahead, or better, junked altogether.

Unconventional Economist


  1. Surely this one is just too ludicrous to pass. How could anybody be for this unless corruption is involved?

    • To me the public service processing visas is a basic function of government, one that is not privatised under ANY circumstances. If it does get privatised it makes me start to think that having government is almost pointless. So, you know, why should I pay taxes? Or do what the government tells me to do? They’re not fulfilling one of their core functions if visa processing gets privatised so it kinda starts to invalidate their whole reason for being. Anyway that’s what this proposal starts to get me thinking and I’m not usually the sort to think like this

      • GunnamattaMEMBER

        Have a look at what else has been contracted out over the last decade or two.

        Your (and the general public’s) idea of what is core goverrnment business and what is the ‘government’ (either side) view of core business may be two entirely different things.

        I am sure not saying that is right, but it is what it is…

        • I’m aware that so much has already been privatised but at some point you have to draw a line in the sand before you start to question thereason for being. This happens to be my line in the sand.

      • More and more I question why I pay tax to such a disgusting Government. I never used to think like this, when I thought the Government was doing a good job, but lately I feel myself becoming more and more libertarian. Starting to think more and more like a North American / republican.. weird..

        • Yeah me too. Super weird. I think living in China was very good at opening up my mind and learning to listen and appreciate a different view point evenif I didn’t agree with it. And now I find myself questioning many things and far less likely to believe what I’m told

  2. The Government’s primary function is to protect its citizens’ property rights and defend the State’s borders.

    Just saying

  3. proofreadersMEMBER

    “The Morrison Government’s planned privatisation of Australia’s visa system is another example of neoliberal ideology that ‘private’ is good and ‘public’ is bad trumping evidenced-based policy.”

    Sorry – your government does not comment on operational matters.

    • GunnamattaMEMBER

      Private good = Public bad is just a recipe for bolting a private sector funds extraction mechanism to a public service with a monopoly to exercise as its tool of choice.

  4. The word on the (Canberra) street is that “they” are running the immigration function of Home Affairs into the ground. The place has serious staff shortages, morale is shot, everything is underfunded, the work is piling up, backlogs everywhere, all causing lots of the experienced workers to move on, leaving the undertrained and inexperienced to face ever growing backlogs and gridlock ….

    …. and that, dear people, is how you prepare a government agency for privatisation …. clearly (or so the argument will go) the public servants are not up to the task, it would cost so much money to fix this, so we better bring in some private sector expertise and pocket the proceeds …

  5. I cannot see how selling a monopoly government business is ever in the interests of the average tax payer. Period. It is an invitation to be gouged in perpatuity.

  6. This can all be automated quite easily.
    1. Click here to jump to the front of the queue – $100,000
    2. Application approved.

    Sounds like the government and their scumbag mates have noticed that there is fat profits in queue jumping people smuggling, and they want in on the act.

  7. >“visa business” profitable by including “premium services for high-value applicants”,

    High value Chinese colonists…..this will be an un-mitigated disaster for the country


      Ah, yes! The Significant (property) Investor Visa aka as SPIV.
      A money launderers delight!
      Invest $5mil in Straya and you’re on the ‘A’ team!
      Worked a treat so far- might be time to expand it.

  8. No mention of what ASIO thinks about this.

    From a national security standpoint this is outrageous.