The Coalition is calling on the Albanese Labor Government to immediately reverse its decision to impose a de facto regional processing penalty on skilled workers in priority sectors hoping to take up one of thousands of jobs that need to be filled in regional communities.

As rural and regional communities are crying out for skilled healthcare workers, nurses, disability support workers, teachers and doctors are being unfairly prevented from priority visa processing because of Albanese Government-imposed red tape.

Thousands of critical workers are being unfairly denied prioritisation of visa because they want to live in regional and rural Australia. By failing to recognise Skilled – Regional visa (subclass 887) visa in its prioritisation the Government is effectively encouraging skilled workers to move to the city.

It all stems from Immigration Minister Andrew Giles’ Ministerial Direction No. 100 which directed that “Visa applications in relation to a healthcare or teaching occupation” would receive the top priority for processing. However, his direction did not account for applications for Skilled – Regional visa (subclass 887) in this direction.

As a result, when a healthcare worker or a teacher, or any other occupation, applies for a Skilled – Regional visa in the they are put at the bottom of the pile and not given priority processing even if they want to take up a critical role such a nurse, disability support worker, or as a doctor in a regional town or community.

This has been confirmed in official correspondence from the Department of Immigration which states:
Please note that subclass 887 visa applications are not made in relation to a specific occupation and therefore fall within priority 5 – All other visa applications.

The Home Affairs website indicated 90 per cent of Skilled – Regional visa (subclass 887) visas are being processed in 27 Months and information released under FOI indicates there could be as many as 19,000 Skilled – Regional visas awaiting processing by the Department.

The Coalition’s regional members of parliament and senators have been receiving a large volume of enquiries from constituents that have outstanding Skilled Regional Visa and have been raising them with Minister Giles for months.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Member for the regional New South Wales seat of Farrer, Sussan Ley said the Albanese Government is failing regional, rural and remote communities through this shoddy decision made by a rookie minister.

“As a result of this complete stuff up by Minister Giles, workers that are desperately needed in regional communities are missing out on priority processing”, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said.

“It means under the Albanese Government a migrant teacher who wants to live in Bondi is getting priority processing over a nurse who wants to work in Broome and a Doctor who wants to work in Alice Springs is getting bumped by a principal who wants to live in Bellevue Hill.

“Minister Giles’ inbox is overflowing with mail on this issue and we’ve heard nothing but crickets from him, it is simply not good enough and needs to be fixed immediately.”

The Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship and Member for the regional Victorian seat of Wannon, Dan Tehan said the Albanese Government continues to show its disdain for rural and regional Australia.

“Already facing critical workforce shortages this decision made late last year, shows that Andrew Giles was happy to prioritise going soft on non-citizen criminals over addressing workforce shortages in regional and rural Australia,” he said.

“Our regions are just as desperate for skilled workers as our cities, so we need Labor to ensure equality of opportunity for businesses outside the capital cities.”

The Shadow Minister for Health and regional South Australian Senator, Anne Ruston said communities in rural, regional and remote Australia are currently crying out for critical healthcare professionals, yet the Government continues to sit on their hands when it comes to this workforce crisis.

“Expediting these visas would mean that international GPs and nurses living in the regions could continue to provide much-needed support to the local community, but instead the Government has relegated these workers to the bottom of the pile,” she said.

“This extremely disappointing action comes on top of their decision to rip overseas-trained doctors out of country towns through changes to the Distribution Priority Areas and to cut 70 telehealth-related Medicare items that was providing immediate primary care access to mostly rural Australians.”