Albanese government blows roof off visa system


Going into last year’s federal election, Anthony Albanese gave the impression that Labor would run a lower immigration program if elected:

“His “train locals first” push comes a month after the Labor leader refused to back the government’s plan to bring permanent migration back to 160,000 a year”, The Australian reported in January 2022.

Albo immigration pledge

As soon as Labor was elected in May 2022, it spun a narrative that the former Coalition government had created a “one million visa backlog” that needed to be ‘fixed’:

Labor advertisement on visa 'backlog'

In September 2022, the Albanese government held the Jobs & Skills Summit with the express purpose of gaining a fake consensus to increase immigration into Australia.


Labor then ramped immigration to record levels via:

  • Extending post-study graduate visas by two years, in turn making student visas more attractive.
  • Committing $42 million and 600 staff to clear the so-called “one million visa backlog” and rubber stamping as many visa applications as possible.
  • Raising the permanent non-humanitarian migrant intake by 30,000 to 190,000, thereby increasing the chances of temporary migrants gaining permanent residency.
  • Approving 66,000 “pandemic event visas” and waiting too long to close the rort down.
  • Prioritising offshore visa applicants over onshore.
  • Removing a requirement that international students acknowledge that they are not applying for a student visa to migrate to Australia.
  • Signing radical migration agreements allowing Indian students and workers to live in Australia long-term.

Throughout, immigration minister Andrew Giles regularly boasted that Labor has rubber-stamped record numbers of visas to eradicate the contrived “visa backlog”.

Here is Giles on 26 December 2022 boasting about processing over 4 million visa applications in just seven months and nearly halving the fake visa backlog:

Andrew Giles media release

And here is Giles again in September 2023 making the same boast (notice how the backlog hasn’t shrunk any further, despite rubber stamping record numbers of visas):

Andrew Giles Tweet

The upshot is that net overseas migration has lifted to unprecedented levels under Labor, with an estimated 500,000 net migrants arriving over the 2022-23 financial year:

Net Overseas Migration

The stock of temporary migrants in Australia (excluding visitors) has also surged to unprecedented levels under Labor:

Temporary visas on issue

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil also boasted that the record immigration “is a welcome indicator of the ongoing recovery from the pandemic and a reminder of the critical role migration plays in our economy, but also shows that we still have a long way to go to fill the gap in our workforce left by the pandemic”.

While the Albanese government has been busy rubber-stamping record numbers of visas under the fake “visa backlog”, an investigation by Abul Rizvi shows that Labor has created a massive permanent visa backlog:


“The Albanese government has allowed the emergence of a very large backlog of permanent visa applications, as well as rapid growth in the number of long-term temporary entrants in Australia to record levels”, Rizvi writes.

“Despite delivery in ’22-’23 of the largest permanent migration program in Australia’s history, the number of long-term temporary entrants in Australia grew sharply, as did the backlog of applications for permanent visas”.

“Overall permanent visa applications lodged grew by 63.5% from 185,030 in ’21-’22 to 302,434 in ’22-’23”.

“New applications lodged in the family stream increased by 27.3% in ’22-’23 compared to ’21-’22. As at 30 June 2023, there were 213,993 family visa applications on hand, an increase of 10.6% from the situation at 30 June 2022”.

“The family stream backlog continued to be dominated by applicants for parent visas at 140,615 followed by partners at 58,515”.

“Due to the surge in new applications, the skill stream backlog increased from 119,857 at 30 June 2022 to 184,879 at 30 June 2023”.

“The 23-24 migration program has been set at 190,000 plus another 3,000 places for the new lottery-based Pacific Engagement Visa”.

“With NZ citizens now having been given a direct pathway to Australian citizenship, few will need to apply for a permanent residence visa. That will effectively increase the number of permanent visa places available (and put upward pressure on net migration)”.

“The key policy challenge for ’23-’24 will be the major increase in permanent visa application backlogs, particularly in the skill stream, and the ongoing pressure from overseas students, temporary graduates and others for a permanent visa”.

“The Government has set up an impossible policy tension — it will be reluctant to increase the number of permanent places available but has created a massive permanent visa backlog and temporary entrant cohort (mainly students and temporary graduates but also working holiday makers and Pacific Australia Labour Mobility workers) whose expectations for a permanent visa it cannot possibly meet”.

The Albanese government has opened the immigration floodgates, driven temporary and permanent migration to unprecedented levels, created a gigantic permanent visa ‘backlog’, guaranteed that net overseas migration will remain at historical highs, and ensured that Australia’s rental crisis becomes permanent.

The Albanese government is a gang of treacherous, dishonest clowns when it comes to immigration.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.