One of the paradoxes of the Howard government was that while it was sometimes portrayed as anti-migrant, in reality it ended up with the most laissez-faire approach to migration since federation. Though the permanent migration program more than doubled in size between Howard’s first and last year, its highest level in 2007 wasn’t quite as big as it had been in Hawke’s peak migration year (1988), or for that matter in Rudd’s first year.
Rather, the most interesting thing about Howard’s policy was expanding migration via rule- rather than quota-based rights to long-term but temporary residence in Australia. Under a rule-based system, if you meet its criteria you can come to Australia, with no restrictions on total numbers. The quota system has criteria for admission, but once the target number of migrants is reached applicants are queued, even if they meet the criteria.
There were big increases in rule-based long-term visas for students and for people coming to Australia to work, the section 457 visas. A lot of people also came to Australia on working holiday visas. Continue reading “The rise of residence rights”