Wikipedia tells us “the law of unintended consequences has come to be used as an adage or idiomatic warning that an intervention in a complex system tends to create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes”
I was always bought up to believe that intentional actions have motives and consequences.
You’d be entitled to think that our Federal government, the responsible Minister and the legion of senior (directly responsible) staff advising the Minister would, when making a significant change to say the Migration Regulations pertaining to the grant of 457 Business Long Stay visas, have given at least some thought to the impact of what they were doing.
OK if that is a reasonable assumption – How is it possible that parliament, the Minister and DIAC made significant changes to the Migration Regulations governing 457 visas without realising that these changes would affect thousands of already lodged applications RETROSPECTIVELY?
Answer: It’s not.
This was intentional and I can only assume it was designed to send a message (promulgated by the now previous Immigration Minister Brendan O’Conner of the made up 10,000 457 visa rorts allegation) or make a point to reinforce the thinking behind these changes. Motives and consequences!
Specifically I’m talking about the recent change to remove the occupational exemption to the English requirement for many 457 visa applicants. Now I’m not commenting on the actual idea as I am of the view that the English language requirement should apply to all 457 visa applicants. However if the rule is they do not and you accept applications and money for them and businesses make financial and staffing plans based on this position it is not acceptable to then turn around and say… ‘Oh this is a time of decision criterion therefore the new rules apply to all undecided applications’. Retrospective application of rules is a fundamental breach of the principal of natural justice and to be a little more obvious and blunt it is just plain stupid.
So to recap – Is it possible that, as DIAC are now saying, that this retrospective application of the new position that English language exemptions are no longer available is an example of the law of unintended consequences?
Answer: Well no, pull the other leg.
DIAC have significant form in this area. They have tried this on before and it has always come undone as it now appears to doing again. Just the other day I got three emails from 3 different staff at DIAC about one application – the first two told me that my client had to now meet the English language requirement (not sure why two different people had to make this point although the second gave a time period to provide an IELTS booking date) and the third said no, wait, do nothing until we get back to you. I called up and was told DIAC were now considering the unintended consequences of the recent changes.
Newspapers were on the same day reporting that the Minister Burke believed that transitional arrangements were in place to cover 457 applications already lodged – ‘What problem’ was his position. Our new Prime Minister was out in the community saying the government was really keen to get back on board with business, small business especially and rebuild the rapport and trust between government and business.
Excellent work: I can think of no better way to build rapport and reengage with the business community who legitimately use the 457 visa program to fill the multiple skilled workplace shortages they suffer than to vastly increase the direct cost to business (200% to 400%) while at the same time refusing thousands of visa applications by the application of a retrospective provision. Not exactly a PR triumph for Prime Minister or Minister.
My questions are: Who is it in DIAC that thinks that this sort of action is a good idea? Did these same folk really think that no one would notice or feel that this was unjust?
I was told the other day that it is cheaper for government just to do stuff and then fix up the unintended consequences later on. “Cheaper.” I asked. “Why don’t they just employ someone who has some idea what happens in the real world, in business?” Answer: Consultation is expensive.
It really is hard not to be cynical. Come on guys – “People Our Business”? Just not business friendly people I guess!