Australia’s proposed character tests for migration agents: A new cornerstone in visa and education reform

By Our Reporter
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In a move signalling zero tolerance for corrupt practices, the Australian government has set its sights on a landmark policy: introducing character tests for migration agents. This measure is part of a series of sweeping reforms that aim to strengthen the integrity of both the education and visa systems.

According to the as-yet-unreleased Nixon review led by Christine Nixon, former chief commissioner of Victoria Police, Australia’s visa and education sectors are in urgent need of an overhaul. Her findings have triggered an array of policy shifts, one of which is the prohibition of agent commissions for student transfers between educational institutions. This comes on the back of widespread allegations of onshore poaching, a scheme where agents are paid large sums for recruiting international students already residing in Australia.

However, it’s the proposed character tests for migration agents that are poised to become the reform’s most significant and talked-about feature. Whilst the tests have not yet been implemented, their potential introduction marks a clear commitment to hold agents accountable for their actions and ensure that only ethical practices prevail in the visa system.

Education Minister Jason Clare is fully behind this initiative, declaring war on what he describes as the “shonks” or unscrupulous characters undermining the system. Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil is in sync, pledging a thorough crackdown on existing loopholes that allow exploitation to fester.

In addition to character tests, the government plans to introduce a “fit-and-proper person test” aimed at international education providers. This test seeks to prevent college owners from simultaneously acting as education agents, thereby eliminating a significant conflict of interest. Educational institutions will also benefit from more transparent data sharing about education agent performance, enabling them to make better-informed decisions about partnerships.

This suite of proposed changes is further galvanised by findings from a shocking investigation named Trafficked. The exposé revealed a brazen human trafficking ring exploiting Australia’s visa system, underlining the urgent need for reforms such as character tests.

The government is also considering more controversial proposals, including the banning of temporary migrants from employment in the sex industry. Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor is slated to announce further immigration-related changes, reinforcing the government’s resolve to bring systemic flaws to light and take corrective action.

With this flurry of planned reforms, spearheaded by the introduction of character tests for migration agents, the Australian government is sending a strong message: Integrity and accountability are now at the forefront of the nation’s visa and educational frameworks. By addressing these key areas, the government hopes to close loopholes, root out corruption, and set the stage for a more transparent and ethical international education and migration sector.


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