Immigration Policy Changes in Australia

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People immigrate to Australia from different countries and they spend most of their life in Australia. In this essay, it will discuss the recent Australian immigration’ policy changes, namely the 457 Visa and Citizenship requirements in relation to Asian people on the topic of Australia nationalism. Secondly, it will discuss how the amended policy discriminates and isolates Asian migrants and explain some ideas about professional practice when working with Asian migrants.

In the past, Chinese immigrants travel to Australia to send money back to China for their family so that it would help them change their living condition in China. However, because of the rapid growth of the Asian population and they take over the job opportunity, as a result, the first anti-Chinese movement appears in 1854 (Hollinsworth, 2006). Even though there was a lot of discrimination toward Chinese then, the government could not completely stop the Chinese immigrants entering Australia (Hollinsworth, 2006).One of the reasons is the rapid change in economy in Australia, the domestic population could not keep up with those changes and Australia did not have enough domestic workers to fill the national infrastructure constructional technology skills (Bahn, Barratt-Pugh & Yap, 2012). Therefore, the immigration policy modification, implemented different types of visa’s to mitigate the social conflict and also support the nation’s economic change.

The introduction of Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) Visa aimed to encourage skilled foreigners to contribute to the Australia labour market and enhance the economy development (Birrell & Healy, 2012). This visa needed an employer sponsor, which is different to the independence skilled migration visa (Phillips & Spinks, 2012). The 457 visa was used for a short-term technology and skill transfer from overseas expertise to the local workers, but now the 457 visa become one of the major pathways for permanent residence application through employer sponsorship (Birrell & Healy, 2012; Phillips & Simon-Davies, 2017). The 457 visa does not have limitation by the government; and it all depends on the Australian labour market. However, the 457 visa has been modified since 2012. Under the 457 visa requirement: a skilled worker needs to have employment arranged for a permanent position in Australia (Philips & Spinks, 2012). The sponsored period is from three months to four years and the applicant skill has to be listed on the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) or Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List (CSOL) (Philips & Spinks, 2012).

People from Asia are one of the main countries who apply for 457 visas in Australia (Massola, 2017). Most of the temporary workers working in Australia more often abused by their employer, such as underpaid, lack of accommodation arrangement or support (Phillips &Spinks, 2012). People with 457 Visa were afraid of their visa cancellation, secondly, they do not have the knowledge to know where to seek assistance. According to Castles (1992) stated that nationalism is a philosophy of political authenticity, which requires that ethnic limits not only aim at the political side, and specifically, that ethnic limits inside a given state ought not to split the power holders and the public. However, from the government and businessman point of view, imported skilled worker from overseas helps to fill the labour shortage on a legal aspect, they only want them to do the work that Australian does not want to do, but at the same time not remain in Australia, (Bahn et al., 2012). Therefore, the government could maintain the Australian nationalism through using the overseas worker’s skill, but ignore their wellbeing and rights (Hollinworth, 2006).

The 457 visa does bring in a lot of benefit into Australia, but how about their well-being, individual value and their right. It was because the immigrants were on the visa restriction, which makes them become powerless; the workers have to obey the government decision (Wright, Groutsis & Broek, 2016). For example, if the worker spends two to three years working in Australia, although they are qualified to apply for the permanent residency, they might have to wait for longer timeframe or denied of the application. On the other hand, 457 Visa worker is not eligible for any Australia’s social services, so that if their partner and children came along with them, all their healthcare or education fees are likely to be more expensive then local people, consequently, the worker would have to rely on the employer, so that if they are mistreated from the employer, the worker would not be able to complain about anything (Wright et al., 2016). As evidenced, the restriction for the 457 visa holder to access any Australian social welfare benefit, in order to protect their Australian identity and maintain nationalist ideals, because of their 457 visa is temporary, this is not possible.

It was recommended by Birrell & Healy (2012) that the Australian government should consider their citizenship through protecting job opportunities as their first priority, and also it stated that those that are semi-skilled or unskilled job vacancies should consider interstate labour transfer or training instead of recruiting the overseas skilled worker. According to Mcleod & Yates (2003) mentioned Pauline Hanson propositions the “one national policy” to diminish the Asian migrant by taking up the job opportunity from the young Australian. The changes of the 457 visa demonstrated that the Australia nationalism does not welcome other national workers to abuse their labour market.

Besides, the 457visa holder shortens their pathway to obtain permanent residency, in other words, Birrell & Healy (2012) question about their eligibility according to the point-test system, because people with 457 visa their English requirement is lower than the independent skilled visa,(DIBP, 2017a). Therefore, the new changes of the 457 visa emphasize to increase the English level and sponsor period to make sure the sponsored worker does complete work in the labour market over a period of time to be eligible for the permanent residency application (Birrell & Healy, 2012). It demonstrated the Australia government have the power to choose people who can speak English and fit into society, so as to maintain their Australia nationalism.

Under these circumstances, In April 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announced the 457 visa will be replaced by the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa in March 2018, in order to protect Australian as their first priority (Massola, 2017; Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 2017a). The TSS aimed to protect the worker to have fair treatment and salary. However, most of the requirements are mainly to protect the Australian worker and society, such as renew the occupation lists that target specific skills, requirement of two years work experience, an English requirement and an increase of the permanent residency eligibility period and age limit. The reason for the change, according to the DIBP (2017) is for Australia’s benefit, mitigate the public concern and enhance the value of trade and industry involvement. Accordingly, the Australian government reforms the visa by stringent the requirement to minimizes and excludes people ability to immigrate into Australia through employment sponsorship. This new policy not only enhances the Australian nationalism but it also demonstrates the Elder’s (2007) ideology about Australia’s discriminatory nationalist ideology.

The Australia government implement new restrictions for the Australian citizenship eligibility requirement can be interpreted as nationalism (Hollinsworth, 2006) since the requirement its only benefits the people who haveshared the Australia’s core value and belief. Apparently, Howard’s government bring in the concept of multiculturalism is to assist migrants to fit into Australia’s society (Ware, 2016), but it challenges the Australian core ethnic aspect of nationalism, which only includes people who agree to the national value (Fozdar, Spittles, 2009).The first new requirement is the resident has to remain in Australia at least four years (DIBP, 2017b), since the government given the residence to demonstrate and provide evidence that they have been contributing and integrate into the Australia society and has understood the social norm. Furthermore, the citizenship test not only strengthens the resident’s understanding of Australia’s values, privileges and responsibilities, but also it would eliminate those people do not agree and obey to Australia’s rule and regulation (DIBP, 2017b).Though the citizenship test diverts the Australian multiculturalism back to the date of the “White Australia Policy” period, in order to associate with an original Australian legacy (Fozdar & Spittles, 2009). Due to the fact of the rapidly growing economy, that is forcing Australia to allow Asian migrants to become citizens; hence, the changes in the citizenship criteria pushes forward to follow Hanson’s anti-Asian point of view and exclusivist nationalism in Australia (Leach, Stokes & Ward, 2000). The citizenship test mainly asked about applicant’s value which shares and respect Australia’s values and belief (DIBP, 2017c), However, according to Darvall (2017) who stated that people argue about the relationship between understanding the name of an Australian cake or cricket player, how does this represent Australian values? Although some question asked about the equality of gender or freedom rights (DIBP, 2017c). As can be seen by the citizenship test, further assimilation of migrants into Australia’s society, as to maintain the Australia nationalism and approaching migrants to agree to Australian values otherwise they would not be accepted as an Australia citizen.

The second major discussion about the citizenship requirement change is the new English test (Chang, 2017b). It was suggested by the Minister Peter Dutton to increase the English requirement from competent to moderate on the IELTS (International English Language Testing Scheme), which is level 5 to level 6 respectively (Killoran, 2017). The reason of the changes as to protect the nation from criminals by cancelling their visas (McGuirk, 2017). Besides, people who genuinely want to be an Australian should demonstrate their ability to communicate with people in the mainstream society in English (Fozdar & Spittles, 2009; Karvall, 2017). This requirement clearly demonstrates nationalism (Hollinsworth, 2006), since it only benefits people who can communicate well in English not only at the competent level but at moderate, because English is Australia national language so that whoever could not utilise English well in the mainstream society could not consider as an Australian. However, according to Chang (2017a), the new suggested English level was far too high, it is because of the required level 6 English even higher than a quarter of the general public literacy level. Besides, people also argued that in the past, people with Basic English level could be in an important position in the community, therefore they suggested the English requirement should not be too difficult to reject their right to be Australian citizen (Chang, 2017b). As can be expected, the department of immigration implements new changes as to promote the Australia nationalism supplementary substantiate the national language so that they could eliminate immigrants who cannot speak fluent English.

Overall changes demonstrate Australia’s nationalism, it is because all the new changes and restriction were eliminated anyone from outside the Australia who does not bear and belong in Australia (Elder, 2007), and also further encourage the “one Nation policy” or “White Australia policy” (McLeod & Yates, 2003). As can be expected, the government use the policy to set up a boundary to exclude people who are not born or belong in Australia (Pardy, 2011), through the citizenship test to eliminate the “other” who does not accept the same Australia’s value and believe. In the government point of view through the citizenship test to prevent any terrorist or criminals to obtain the Australian citizenship rights, however, it clearly marked the boundary between us and other (Pardy, 2011). According to Hollinsworth (2006), the social unfairness formed through this, either normalises or marginalises people into the different group, whoever outside the mainstream category as can be counted as the others. In order words, it clearly showed that the Australian government categorisation of who is born in Australia as the mainstream, and people who study and live in Australia for most of their life count as an outsider or others as long as they does not have the Australian citizenship. Nationalism is not only a form of national identity, but also about individual’s sense of belonging (Fozdar, Spittles & Hartley, 2015). Similarly, Elder (2007) mentioned that being Australian is a mind-boggling idea that stretches out past ideas of citizenship, and also additionally affecting parts of life that may seem detached to nationality, through different exploratory to identify who to be included or excluded from being Australian.

According to Fozdar et al. (2015) research, the majority believe it is good to have different country background people live in Australia, but they also think that the migrants should accept the Australian value and blend into the mainstream and leave their individual values behind. However, Fozdar et al. (2015) also mentioned that people have found the most appropriate way to deal with diversity in Australia, is by learning to respect each other, in other words, instead of assimilating but integrating. However, Australia was a surprisingly homogeneous civilization, so that, racism against outsiders had turned into a destructive component of Australian individuality, particularly Chinese migrants in the nineteenth century, which is part of the disclosure of the White Australia Policy (Castles, 1992). In this policy not only to enlarge the White position and their identity but also to exclude anyone who does not belong to the Anglo- Australian (Hollinsworth, 2006). In the past, there is legislation to indicate that racial distinguishing proof of Australian national way of life as British and white, to the prohibition of minorities’ population, because of the Australia’s history, which creates the complexities of the relationship between national and individuality (Fozdar et al., 2015). Moreover, with the development of national economy and culture, Asian nations have a great concern about Australia’s racial discrimination of migrants, this was a grave affront, and furthermore, the topic around prejudice and racial discrimination turned into the negative ideology of an emerging global rights agenda and discussion (Moran, 2010).

Fozdar & Low (2015) suggested that Australia is a monoculture nation due to the White Australia history so that the immigration policies tend to focus on the ethnic minorities. Although the multiculturalism policy aims for social cohesion, it equally encourages prejudice toward immigrants (Fozdar & Low, 2015). The announcement of the Australian Values Statement by the government further clarifies the meaning of Australian values, so that the government could smooth the progress of enhanced assimilation of Asian migrants (Fozdar & Low, 2015). Furthermore, Clark (2009) stated that the multiculturalism policy, the government established different services and programs to facilitate Asian migrant to integrate into Australia’s society; hence, it has further defined the difference between Australian and Asian migrant. At the same time it telling the world that, the Asian migrant does not understand the Australia’s value so that they have to attend those services to learn and blend in the Australian society (Clark, 2009).

The changes of immigration policy demonstrate as institutional racism toward the Asian migrant (Hollinsworth, 2006). For example, children who arrived with their parents on 457 visas, often the school will provide an extra English class for them, because they assume those children do not have adequate English level to manage the school work as Australian students do. On the other hand, the local people concern about the 457 visa workers took up the job opportunities, therefore, the government commence a new restriction on to eliminate people who cannot fulfil the condition as ‘others’ to protect the Australian workers as ‘us’, which indicate the government institutional discriminates people of diverse ethnicities and religions who have skills to comprehend the job (Hollinsworth, 2006). Besides, it accentuates that associations have their own dominant procedures of normalizing and naturalizing, which will oppressive and exclusionary the others (Hollinsworth, 2006). Under the multicultural policy, the Asian migrants of the citizenship hope still has been influenced from the radicalisation (Kwok, 2006), it is because the government stated that the estimations of Australian citizenship includes proportional duties and benefits and completely contribute in Australian communities (Kwok, 2006), therefore increase the English level in order to make sure the Asian migrants could communicate and contribute in the communities in English to bring in the social cohesion, in other words, this is excluding people where English is their second language. It could be interpreted as people who do not speak English are considered the ‘other’(Hollinsworth, 2006)

According to the United Nations, International Convention on the right of all migrant worker and their family members (United Nations, 1990) stated that migrant worker has their free choice to leave any nations and should not be restricted. Besides, the Australian Human Right Commission also mentioned that individual has the right to make their choice of their lives without discrimination (AHRC, 2017). It indicated that human rights should be the main value within professional social work practice (Valtonen, 2008). The social work value guided by the human right to advocacy individual has the right to be respect and equality, thus, the government play an important role to provide intervention and commission to all society sector (Valtonen, 2008). It is suggested that social work should continue in its push to connect the worries of migrants into the national plan, it because policy excludes the national minority group of migrants, not a good process to enhance social cohesion (Valtonen, 2008).

On the other hand, it is important to raise the social worker self-awareness to understand individual’s value and belief, when working with people from different culture background; thus to establish relationship in respect, client-oriented and without the assumption of individual’s rights and needs (Valtonen, 2008). Therefore, to be able to work effectively with Asian migrants, understanding cultural competence would enhance responsiveness with the migrants and address the imbalance of power to empower the migrants to work together instead of a top-down approach (Valtonen, 2008). Usually, the temporary worker would feel disempowered, because they might not feel that they belong to this country, therefore as a professional worker to empower them, and their institutional power which would establish an effective relationship to achieve their goal or intervention (Valtonen, 2008).

According to AASW Code of Ethics (2010), the social worker has the commitment to social justice and human rights, it is the social worker obligation to advocate for people who suffer inequalities and injustice and bring in the social change. For example, those Asian residents have been contributingto Australian society either through studies or business purposes for a certain period of time, therefore, they should not have to wait for another four years and pass the English test to apply for the Australia’s citizenship. Those, temporary migrants, they do not receive any citizen’s right or any social benefit, but they contribute most of their life to assist Australia’s development, therefore, as a professional social worker to raise their voice and cooperate with the policymaker to establish a fair policy for those temporary migrants. In doing so, the community development approach would be effectively assisting the social worker to work with temporary migrants (Westoby & Dowling, 2013), moving from micro concern to macro matters.

As a professional social worker would first of all establish relationship with migrants to bring them together who share the same concern such as the strict English level and then facilitate their concern and needs and connect people together, work alongside with them and take public action with people who share the same concern (O’Connor, 2008). Furthermore, communication and negotiation skills are important elements between the organizations and the migrants with regard to confidentiality (Payne 2008), concomitantly, it is necessary to listen before making any decision, assumptions and movement about the services or the support that they need (Nelson 2009), especially with people whose English is not their first language.

Furthermore, to advocate with migrants to raise the government awareness of policy’s harsh requirements, it is necessary to work with other social workers and organizations, hence, inter-agency collaboration would be a key element of practice for a professional social worker. The idea of inter-agency collaboration is to bring professionals, clients and organization work together to achieve their common goals (Anderson, Hennessy, Corners and Manthorpe, 2013). This approach not only mitigates the complexity of circumstances but also enhances the individual’s capacity and enlarges the possibility to achieve the results. According to Keast & Mandell (2013), networking is another important tool for the social worker, different types of networking to meet the diverse objective, such as cooperative, coordinative and collaborative (Keast & Mandell 2013). Although the cooperative and coordinative networks might be for a short period of time, the collaborative require a higher social duty when huge scale change is the objective (Keast & Mandell 2013).

In conclusion, the changes in 457 visa and citizenship requirements are the result of the government aiming to reduce the number of Asians entering Australia who may take over the job opportunities and become an Australian citizen, which would mitigate the public concerns about the job opportunities and terrorist, thus to maintain the Australia nationalism. In addition, the changes of immigration policy demonstrate exclusion in Australia society, it represents the institutional racism. At last, a professional practice to work with migrants about the government policy changes, it would be to advocate for Asian migrants and community development approaches that assist them to raise their voice about the unfair conditions for their application. And also, comprehensive communication skills and inter-agency collaboration would be part of the key elements when working with people with different cultural background.

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