It’s time to abolish costly parental visas

In its 2016 Migrant Intake into Australia report, the Productivity Commission (PC) estimated that the circa 9,000 elderly permanent parental visas granted every year cost Australian taxpayers between $2.6 and $3.2 billion in present value terms, or between $335 000 and $410 000 per elderly adult, with the cost rising over time as numbers increase. The PC also explicitly recommended that parental visas be abolished, noting that they divert scarce funding away from Australia’s broader welfare system:

“The contributory visa charge of just under $50 000 meets only a fraction of the fiscal costs for the annual intake of roughly 7200 contributory parents. And an additional 1500 parents make a minimal contribution. Overall, the cumulated lifetime fiscal costs (in net present value terms) of a parent visa holder in 2015-16 is estimated to be between $335 000 and $410 000 per adult, which ultimately must be met by the Australian community. On this basis, the net liability to the Australian community of providing assistance to these 8700 parents over their lifetime ranges between $2.6 and $3.2 billion in present value terms. Given that there is a new inflow each year, the accumulated taxpayer liabilities become very large over time. This is a high cost for a relatively small group.

Ultimately, every dollar spent on one social program must require either additional taxes or forgone government expenditure in other areas. It seems unlikely that parent visas meet the usual standards of proven need, in contrast to areas such as mental health, homelessness or, in the context of immigration, the support of immigrants through the humanitarian stream, and foreign aid.

Given the balance of the costs and benefits, the case for retaining parent visas in their current form is weak”.

The exorbitant budgetary costs of these parental visas are easy to comprehend. These migrants will necessarily be heavy users of the health and social services system (due to their old age), requiring funding by Australian taxpayers. Even if they have private health insurance, they will require cross-subsidisation from other members, thus helping to lift premiums. They will also use all manner of publicly-funded infrastructure.

With this background in mind, the Daily Telegraph has published a sob story about a 98 year old grandmother from India that has been refused a parental visa and risks being sent home because the federal government does not want to continue funding her in home care at a cost of $50,900 a year:

A 98 year-old woman is desperately fighting against being deported back to India after the Australian government decided that paying for a carer to tend to her for 15 hours a week was too expensive.

Esmeralda Rosario is now facing spending her 99th birthday alone with no family in Goa India after 12 years in Australia because the Home Affairs department refused her Aged Parent Visa application in November last year.

The mother of two and grandmother of four arrived in Australia in July 2007 on a tourist visa, and received an indefinite bridging visa in 2008 while her Aged Parent visa was being processed…

An appeal hearing will take place this Tuesday before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, where Mrs Rosario’s ‘heartbroken’ family will fight desperately to allow their grandmother and mother to stay in Australia…

Son-in-law Godwin D’Silva said that the family were ‘horrified’ at the prospect of sending his wife’s ‘frail’ mother back to her hometown of Goa in India, where she has no friends or relatives to take care of her.

“When she first arrived here we decided to apply for her Aged Parent visa because she was getting old and frail and we wanted to keep her here and care for her,” Mr D’Silva said…

Ms Rosario is a recipient of a $50,990 home care package through the government’s MyAgedCare program. Her daughter Marie Rita D’Silva said that $50,990 of annual funding gives the 98 year-old at-home care from a nurse three times a week in five hour blocks while her Australian family members earn a living.

“She’s old and tired I’m just looking for little support, we just need a little extra help when we’re at work,” Mrs D’Silva said…

“My family came to Australia in 1999, we’ve never been without a job, we’re all taxpayers,” Mr D’Silva said.

“(Mrs Rosario) has done nothing wrong in this world. She’s shown nothing but care and compassion throughout her life. She needs to be with us.”

This family are economic migrants. They chose to come to Australia under their own free will. There should never have been the expectation that they could bring their elderly parent along for the ride at taxpayers’ expense.

They chose to be separated from their mother when they came to Australia in the first place.

There is no magic pudding when it comes to public finances, and the massive fiscal cost of parental visas necessarily diverts funding away from other social programs, such as:

  • funding for schools and hospitals;
  • funding for infrastructure;
  • funding for the Aged Pension and Newstart; and
  • funding for the NDIS.

The fiscal cost of these visas is already enormous and growing, and poses a threat to Australia’s welfare state as we know it.

They also obliterate the false claim that a strong migration program is needed to mitigate an ageing population. Instead, they add to the problem.

In short, parental visas must be abolished, as explicitly recommended by the PC.

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  1. “In short, parental visas must be abolished, as explicitly recommended by the PC.”
    100% agree.

    • My, my … welfare for as far as the eye can see.

      It’s not enough to limit handouts to your own citizens and corporations – it’s handouts for everyone else too. And why not, when money grows on trees.

      • why discriminate foreign citizens but not foreign corporations?
        at least those people, once here, become Australian citizens. foreign companies get all the benefits and welfare and yet never become ours

        • Because foreign companies pay taxes and provide jobs to local people. A minor benefit I grant you, but at least they’re doing some giving as well as taking.

  2. There was another sob story over the weekend with Indians moving to Canada because it is easier to “sponsor” parents.

    Sponsor becoming another Orwellian term to mean something very different. More like someone not wanting to sponsor at all, and rather expecting a large transfer of wealth from Australian tax payers to someone who is neither Australian nor requiring humanitarian assistance.

  3. SnappedUpSavvyMEMBER

    50 grand a year?? holy crapola I had no idea, no wonder my suburb is full of old Chinese people hobbling around and yacking on the ground

    • I knew an Indian couple that had their parents in aged care here. I never realised how it could happen.

      The couple were low income earners, in their 40s, here not that long – the wife was on less than $50k base working in a call centre, the husband worked in warehouse low level role.

      I’m sure the tax they paid wouldn’t even cover the cost of one of their parent’s age care in Australia, let alone all the other expenses they accrued (Medicare, kids in school).


    • That’s a ‘Level 4’ package ($51,400/year top of shelf) where the recipient receives 10-13 hours per week ( approx) at a max cost to her of $148.82 per fortnight ($3869/yr)
      Note: the community provider that “administers” the ‘care’ can invoice at $40-60 per HOUR!
      Alot of the A Govt subsidy goes to the providers and there’s ~ 120,000 seniors on the waiting list

      • Fishing72MEMBER

        Stoked to be an elderly legacy Aussie who has to wait for an Indian immigrant dies before they can access the care packages.

  4. Wow, 12 years waiting for a visa. So risky. I feel sorry for her as a person
    The system is an issue, not her per-se

    But OTOH rather my taxes went to funding newstart lift

    • they’ve been gaming the system for 12 years. IF the family want her here, they should be prepared to take the financial hit to look after her, rather than be out earning & keeping the money and making the Australian taxpayer pick up the bill. Why can’t they pay for the $50k of care if they love her so much?

      • +many,
        no doubt they hired the best immigration lawyer money can buy to extend the deportation as long as possible.

  5. Lest we forget, Labor proposed open-ended parent visas. When that killed them in Sydney, they censored it from the post mortem. The Albotross is still pretty sure, that they’re right about migration and the voters are wrong.

    • The parental visa proposed by the ALP in the last election will require the parent to get private health insurance. I still think it’s a bad policy though.

        • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

          As a member of the ALP I believe that on this issue alone we deserved to lose.
          It was a cynical ”ethnic vote grab” of a policy that targeted a small number of swing seats with large immigrant populations and failed to win their support anyway!

          The undermining of our Welfare State, that this policy would have produced, is completely beyond the pale and an absolute betrayal of Working class people by the Party that is supposed to represent working class people’s interests.

          It feels unbelievable to me that the Labor leadership can be so wrong and lose so easily to the current slimy, sleazy and corrupt Tory/LNP Government.
          But done it they have and it is all their own fault.
          I don’t so causally blame Murdoch like Sweeper does.

          • Yep. Everything wrong with Australia comes back to Labor betraying working Australians.

            Dump them. They’re so wrong it’s ridiculous.

          • Well, EP, given the in-depth and rigorous analysis that went on after the election came to the conclusion that the ALP lost because Australia was full of stupid racists, I’m gonna say you’ll have to get used to seeing LNP in charge for some time.

          • The ALP fails to have useful discussions about such policies as it has effectively forbidden them.

            Unlike present day Australia, some societies are structured so that extended family are included within what we might see as a nuclear family unit and part of the normal cultural landscape. There is much merit in this and such societies have several positive aspects. However, is this the way Australian society should evolve and is this the ALP policy in respect of the wider community? Who knows? Where is the debate?

            To make the rest of Australia pay for a model of family life desired by immigrants is incredibly unfair on people who want to maintain a nuclear family unit and lifestyle as is – that is also one that seeks independence for older Australians.

            The ALP deal means that immigrants get free baby sitters and the rest of Australia can pay for childcare as both parents work full time to afford it and pay taxes for parental visas. It’s a double ‘f-you’ from the ALP.

            Here’s the rub. The first obligation of a government is to the people of the nation state who have contributed most to generations of social development, tax and culture. If your family (and it doesn’t matter where you came from) has lived in Australia for several generations, your contribution in terms of tax, social development and culture is massively greater than new immigrants – and so is your right to be consulted and be the driver of cultural evolution. So is your right to have your collective contribution respected If your own parents, grandparents and children are being crushed by the present neoliberal policies of both the ALP and LNP. Why on earth should you want to pay for the desires of immigrants, that were never part of their original visa terms or benefits?

            I will never again vote for an ALP that has such cynical policies that emerge from opportunism and a failure to have an open debate where they try and sneak minority pleasers past the electorate. The failure to protect the living standards of Australians has become the ALPs hallmark. An unwillingness to represent mainstream Australian values and thought generally makes the party unelectable. Albosaurus is not going to change that; a political dinosaur with a walnut-sized brain who is lumbering towards extinction thinking that the neoliberal Cretaceous will never end. The UK election was the type of asteroid impact that the Australian ALP can look forward to next election.

            The ALP has gone full retard and only has itself to blame.

          • Sadly Labor threw away the last election. Basically on this issue and the new taxes Chris Bowen seemed to be dreaming up on a weekly basis in the lead up to polling day. (The last minute backflip on franking credits for those in receipt of a partial age pension was not enough to get my mother to vote Labor and she is quite socially progressive).

          • Unlike present day Australia, some societies are structured so that extended family are included within what we might see as a nuclear family unit and part of the normal cultural landscape.

            You do not have to go far back at all in Australian society for multiple generations of family to be living in close proximity, if not the same household, *especially* in regional areas.

            I grew up with my grandparents on one side of the family living a literal stone’s throw away (chunk of land carved off the old farm for my parents). On the other side of the family within a half hour drive (and that household was grandparents and great-grandparents living together). Most of my childhood friends had at least one set of grandparents living in the same town.

            The slow and painful death of regional centres over the last couple of generations as people have moved to the cities looking for work is changing this, but even now has a tendency to come back around when their own parents reach the point of not being able to look after themselves and are moved to a care facility in the city nearer to their children (or in rarer cases, a tree/sea-change to where the oldies are).

            The decay of the extended family unit is a tragedy.

            But I digress. As usual, the real problem here is not the concept, but the volume and misuse. There’s a valid case for parental visas for permanent immigrants (say, with 20+ years of citizenship and near-permanent residence under their belts). It is hardly reasonable to require someone who has been living in the country for decades with a family and children (possibly grandchildren) to uproot everything so they can help their own parents see out the last years of their life. There are certainly details that need to be paid attention to, but the principle itself is fine.

          • drsmithy – parental support – whether they get Medicare or the Pension, or not – is very expensive, especially if the elderly parents gets $50k a year nursing support. If they receive the support for 10 – 20 years, that’s up to $1m dollars.

            If giving this option to support a migrant’s parent (where the migrant has been here for 20 years), the migrant’s tax contributions over that period they hae been here doesn’t cover the cost. After 20 years of being a migrant, are they really paying their way for their own pensions, medicare, education costs for their children PLUS the up to $1m to support each of their parents? No, especially where migrants earn less than Australian-born citizens, and factoring in that they are coming in at a later stage of their working life and contributing less. It does not stack up.

            Migrants need to be paying their own way in the first instance – I don’t even think this is happening. To look at supporting their elderly parents at a time when the parents are high-needs, is ludicrous.

            We’re a soft touch and now we are chasing the votes of entitled migrants who will be proven to be an overall drain on the Australian economy and society in the long-term.

            The money these migrants initially bring in isn’t worth the nightmare the recent migration from India, China, Nepal and the Philippines will create in the longer term.

          • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

            “I’m gonna say you’ll have to get used to seeing LNP in charge for some time.”

            Well Mr Walker,…..I’m OK with this as it means that LNP will own everything that is coming to the Australian people.

          • I am not suggesting the existing system should continue, I am saying there is a place in the immigration system for the idea of a parental visa.

            Obviously if you don’t address the fundamental issues around an immigration programme that targets mostly low-skill, low-value immigrants then everything else that relies on it is going to be sh!t as well.

      • Even with private health insurance, their premium won’t cover the cost, and that means someone else will. Someone like me.

  6. I think migrant’s parents and maids should be granted visas because that is the only way we can attract wealthy migrants.Then they will build large mansions here and that will keep our tradies employed.

  7. here is another version of how our govt. gets r00ted

    I was working with a guy whose parents are from India. They did the usual India –> South africa –> NZ move. He was raised in NZ but studied medicine in Aus, and now works here. A parent was diagnosed with lung cancer, a special subtype that’s amenable to tablet chemotherapy (disrupts a special gene pathway). Its not funded in NZ so they self fund for $60k. Now planning to move to Aus for 6 months while self funding, when after 6 months they’re immediately medicare eligable and get it for free. These are retired people who have not paid a $ in tax in Aus. Love our system.

  8. david collyerMEMBER

    Thanks UE. Leaving family behind, whatever their circumstances, is one of the costs of migration.

    Enumerating the burden of migrant elder care gets the arguments away from simple-minded compassion.

  9. Australia is not so large a breast that it can nurse the entire world.

    We need to wean non-Citizens off the teat pronto.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      Especially if we are to continue to be one of the biggest per capita migrant intake nations in the world.
      Greater compassion Could be financially viable if we had a considerably lower intake.

  10. What are the figures for those on bridging visas waiting for a parent visa?

    What are the figures for those on such visas that are also receiving government services?

    This explains why there is so many Chinese and Indian elderly people hobbling around of late.

    • Qualitative Easing

      In the real world, yes. In the parallel universe in which Australia has existed for the last 20 years, not much of a mystery at all …

  11. What about the drug addicts who are let in?

    Gurwinder Gill, Herdeep Singh and Navjinder Singh were part of a group that robbed 15 sites that stored baby formula between June 8 and August 30.

    his heroin addiction

    came to Australia in 2014 on a student visa

    • Qualitative Easing

      Maybe it’s not robbery, just us [email protected] Australians, failing to appreciate the ‘cultural differences’ of those here on tourist visas, as to which see:

      A man accused of grabbing a toddler by the arm and kissing him twice on the lips at a Sydney aquarium repeatedly apologised when the boy’s father intervened and later told police there was a “cultural difference”, a court has been told.

      Nikhil Bhatia, 28, an Indian national who has been in Australia for just a week, allegedly approached the two-year-old boy who was unrelated to him at the Sea Life Aquarium in Darling Harbour at about 5pm on Sunday.


      Ms McKinnon said Mr Bhatia went on to tell police “it happens, it’s a culture difference”.

      The 28-year-old was arrested at the scene and charged with intentionally sexually touching a child under 10 years, which carries a maximum penalty of 16 years’ imprisonment.

  12. $50k for 15hrs of in home care a week from a nurse for a non-citizen!!!! Jesus H Christ on a stick.

    Does it really need to be a nurse at the house when it is evident they are using it as a minding service. Why not just take her down to the local bowlo with $50 for the bistro lunch and a slap on the pokies.

    After the absolute $hitstorm the missus and I had to go through to get $30k worth of funding for our 19yr old autistic son (moderate intellectual disability, limited speech) from the NDIS which doesn’t come close to covering his needs, I’m so pissed off by this.

      • Don’t forget that the nurse working 45 hour weeks (3 x 15 hrs) ain’t making $150k here (3 x $50k), either….


        Ship the lady back to Goa or have Mrs Rosario cough up for the costs of granny-sitting.

  13. Yeah wow. My father’s in a nursing home at a cost of $40k a year and a $600k bond.

    He paid millions in taxes over his life.

    We need a revolution.

    • Ironically these home care packages were estabilshed to keep people in their own homes, rather than them going into nursing homes.

      • Imagine the money they’re making with that $600k, then add the $40k, for a room, with exploited 457s feeding, and cleaning him.

        Any thing outside that is an additional cost.

        It is a fking rort. Meanwhile non Australians get care for free.

        What is going on in this country? What have we allowed our politicians to do to us?

  14. Does anyone think any of our Australian born children or their children will be getting in house care in 60 years time?

    What the actual fk.

  15. As far as electoral bribes go, the bang for your buck on this is particularly low. Imagine what Bridgette Mackenzie could do with $2 billion a year!

  16. Mining BoganMEMBER

    Betcha the old lady gives the in-home help a constant death stare.

    There will be no accepting help gracefully, it will all be judged under a cloud of suspicion…and the death stare.

  17. I recently met an Indian Uber driver from the Punjab region (of course) who said they were bringing out the whole family including elderly parents and extended family.
    Australia it’s like nirvana, according to the Uber driver we have this unlimited welfare system, free education and free medical/hospital care. And they pay you lots of money if you have more than two children when you are on welfare. Why wouldn’t you want to come here but the big question is when will it all completely fall apart?

    • It’s strange that we can rate student visa applications from Punjab as ‘high risk’ but work not for PR or other visas?