New reporting framework reflects Labor Government’s commitment to diversity

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced that new powers will be given to the Australian Multicultural Council (AMC) to review and scrutinise Government advertising expenditure in multicultural media.

This announcement was made at the multicultural ethnic media conference.
The new reporting framework reflects the Gillard Labor Government’s commitment to Australia’s unique diversity and the importance of ensuring equal access to information for all Australians.

These important changes complement the Government’s strengthened access and equity strategy, which was announced as part of the Government’s new multicultural policy, The People of Australia.

The AMC will formally review Government campaign expenditure in ethnic media to ensure our access and equity principles are fulfilled.

These changes in transparency and reporting reflect the Government’s commitment to respond to the information needs of Australia’s diverse communities. Cultural diversity is a central feature of our national identity. Around 45 per cent of all Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was born overseas. The Government recognises that ethnic media plays a key role in disseminating information to Australians from diverse backgrounds.

Under the new framework, departments and agencies will now be required to undertake “exception reporting” if they do not include ethnic media advertising as part of their broader campaign strategy.

The reasons for these exceptions will now have to be publically released in bi-annual reports which will be reviewed and scrutinised by the AMC.

Special Minister of State Gary Gray has written to every Minister to outline and promote these new changes.
Minister Gray has asked Ministers to ensure their departments adhere to the new reporting requirements and always consider the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.

The Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans and he had announced a suite of measures to enhance competitiveness in Australia’s international education sector. The new measures are in response to the report by the Hon Michael Knight AO, Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011, which was released. The Government has accepted all 41 recommendations in the Knight Review, with the majority proposed to be implemented through 2012-13 so that key recommendations can come into effect before second semester 2012.

“Our international education sector is world class, and the reforms announced today will help entrench Australia as a preferred destination for international students,” Senator Evans said.
“The reforms will assist in ensuring Australia remains an attractive study option and will offer practical support for international education providers that have been under pressure as a result of the high Australian dollar.”

Recognising that the Australian university sector has a track record of providing high quality international education at lower levels of risk, the Government will introduce new streamlined visa processing arrangements for a range of Australian university courses for faster, easier visa access for prospective students in time for second semester next year.

The streamlined arrangements will apply to international students enrolled in courses at the level of bachelor degree or higher.

These students, regardless of their country of origin, will be treated as though they are lower risk, similar to the current Assessment Level (AL) 1 requirements.

“Our consultations found that the financial requirements for Student Visas were too onerous, so we are reducing the financial requirements for some applicants, with students now needing around $36,000 less in the bank when applying for a visa,” Mr Bowen said.

“This reduction in the AL financial requirements will particularly assist a significant number of Vocational Education and Training and private education providers.”

A two- to four-year post-study work visa will also be available for university graduates depending on the level of study completed. Other work visa options, such as the Temporary Skilled 457 visa and the Skilled Graduate Visa, continue to be available to graduates and to employers looking to meet genuine skills needs.

“Students are increasingly looking to augment their studies with graduate work experience and this further post-study work visa option will offer university students a more complete study experience in Australia,” Senator Evans said.
The Government will also undertake a fundamental review of the Student Visa risk management framework, the ALs, to report by mid-2012. The AL framework review will specifically explore a provider risk model, in consultation with an external reference group.

The Government will consider options for the early implementation of the findings of the AL framework review, targeting a small number of high quality education providers – including TAFEs – to recognise the lower migration risks associated with them.

“We need to move to a more targeted approach to assessing and responding to immigration risk in the Student Visa program that recognises and rewards high-quality education providers,” Mr Bowen said.
These reforms will be made possible through a new ‘genuine temporary entrant’ requirement for all Student Visa applicants that will enable the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to better assess applications.

As part of the response to the Knight Review, the Government will also: allow all English language students to apply for a visa without first meeting minimum English skills requirements; extend the time a PhD student can stay in Australia while their thesis is marked; establish an Education Visa Advisory Group to improve information flow between the Australian Government and the international education sector; and repeal the automatic cancellation and mandatory cancellation provisions for student visas.

Australia is widely recognised for the delivery of high quality, internationally recognised qualifications by a diverse range of international education providers. Australia’s international education sector has undergone rapid growth over the past decade, with the number of Student Visas more than doubling from 108,000 in 1997-98 to 269,828 in 2009-10.

The Ethnic Media meet was a quite a success and amount of time each of the Minister and the Members of Parliament devoted to meet was unprecedented. Stealing the phrase of New South Wales Leader of Opposition, Hon John Robertson this function showed that multi culture is truly part of Labor Party’s DNA.