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Government adds 35,000 spots to migration program, commits $36m to visa backlog

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The Federal Government has announced that it will add 35,000 more spots in its permanent migration program, lifting the cap from 160,000 to 195,000.

This will include lifting state-and-territory sponsored visas from 11,000 to 31,000 in 2022-23.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil made the announcement on day two of the national Jobs and Skills Summit currently taking place in Canberra. The move is expected to ease the country’s current skills shortage and has been welcomed by business groups at the summit.

“COVID is presenting us on a platter an opportunity to reform our immigration system that we will never get back, and I want us to take it,” O’Neil said.

“The skill shortage in our country is real. And this is not a problem affecting just business, and organisations, this is a problem affecting the everyday lives of every Australians.

“One of Labor’s priorities is to move away from the focus on short-term migrants, toward permanency, citizenship and nation building.”

The government has also announced an investment of $36.1 million to hire 500 more staff over the next nine months in the Home Affairs department to address the massive visa backlog. At present, around 900,000 visas are pending with the department.

In July, the government had announced priority processing of student visas, visitor visas, and temporary skilled visas to Australia.

Prime Minister Albanese has backed the announcement, noting that closed borders had made Australia “vulnerable” and that there was a strong-need for more permanent migration.

“We need to learn the lessons of the pandemic and build back stronger. One of the lessons is our migration mix needs to change. We can’t just have this over-reliance on temporary labour,” PM Albanese told reporters at the jobs summit.

“There are so many professions […] where we’ve had skills shortages for a long period of time. It makes no sense to bring people in, have them for a few years, then get a new cohort in to adapt to the Australian work environment.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who is not attending the summit, told reporters on the Gold Coast that while he supports lifting the migration cap, “the number needs to be higher.”

READ MORE: Indian migrants in Australia: Census 2021

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