Author: Christopher Knaus
The Coalition has backflipped on changes that would have made it harder for poorer migrant families to bring their families to Australia on parent visas.
In March Guardian Australia reported that the federal government had quietly made changes to the assurance of support scheme – a program designed to keep new migrants off welfare by ensuring their families have the means to support them.
The government more than doubled the amount families of new migrants were required to earn to act as financial backers in a range of visa categories, most notably parent visas. A couple, for example, would have needed to earn $115,475 a year, instead of $45,185, to act as financial backers for their parents.
The government faced significant backlash, particularly from Chinese communities.
The Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia said the changes would make reunions far more difficult and would have a “heavy financial impact” on families.
A collection of crossbench senators and Labor planned to support a Greens disallowance motion to undo the changes in the Senate. Labor’s shadow social services minister, Jenny Macklin, wrote to the social services minister, Dan Tehan, on Wednesday, warning him that Labor would “vote to block this unfair sneak attack on hard-working migrant families” unless the Coalition backed down.
Tehan wrote to the Greens senator Nick McKim on Wednesday night, saying the government would agree to reverse its position.
Tehan said if the disallowance motion had been passed, the processing of all related visas would have stopped.
“The government wanted to ensure these visas continued to be processed, so in discussions with Senator McKim reached an agreement to avoid an unwanted outcome,” he said.
“The government will introduce a revised determination that addresses Senator McKim’s concerns.”
McKim described the backdown as an “important win for multicultural Australia”.
“I thank [Tehan] for his change of heart and commitment to scrap the changes,” McKim said.
“Importantly, he has given me a written assurance that anyone who had their application for family reunion visas assessed under the recently changed rules will have their application reassessed under the old rules.”
Macklin said the changes would have unfairly moved the goalposts on thousands of Australians wanting to reunite with their families.
“People who thought they were eligible were all of a sudden being told that they were not eligible,” she said. “These changes were introduced without any announcement, and without any consultation. And I think clearly the government just didn’t understand how unfair the changes were.”
The changes would have impacted a range of visa categories, including parent, aged dependant, contributory parent and remaining relative.