NSW joins health waiver scheme for skilled migrants
By state political reporter Mark Tobin
Posted Fri Aug 20, 2010 6:44am AEST
The New South Wales Government has signed up to a scheme that will allow skilled migrants to get permanent residency, even if they or their family do not satisfy all of the health requirements.
The Commonwealth introduced the health waiver scheme in response to a high profile case where a doctor in regional Victoria, Bernhard Moeller, was refused permanent residency because his son had Down Syndrome.
The scheme allows for the health requirement for some permanent residency applications to be waived if the applicant is performing valuable work and where there are compelling or compassionate circumstances.
New South Wales was the last state to agree to participate in the scheme, and the State Opposition said it had a number of examples where valuable workers would be forced to leave regional areas.
One doctor who was worried about his future in New South Wales was Nihal Pathirana, a GP working in Coonamble in the north-west of the state.
He came to Australia in 2007 as part of a program to bring skilled migrants to regional areas.
A year later his daughter was later diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis – and Dr Pathirana said that meant the family was not eligible for permanent residency in New South Wales.
He said he was preparing to leave his medical practice in the rural town.
“I have been working there for three-and-a-half years and I like the community very much and the people like me too,” he said.
The NSW Government raised a number of issues about the changes to the migration rules in a submission to a Commonwealth parliamentary committee examining the issue.
“While NSW strongly supports migration, the NSW Government would be concerned if additional demand was placed on NSW services and infrastructure,” the submission read.
The ABC raised the issue with the Minister for State and Regional Development Eric Roozendaal.
He later issued a statement saying the State Government had now decided to sign up.
“The NSW Government's decision to participate in this scheme has been based on careful consideration of the costs and benefits to NSW,” Mr Roozendaal said.
“We are now working with the Federal Government on the details of our participation.”
The Nationals MP for Barwon Kevin Humphries says he cannot understand why it took so long for the State Government to agree to participate.
“Finally NSW has signed up to the health waiver scheme,” he said.
“Many of our skilled workers living in NSW particularly in regional areas that have children in particular who have disabilities are now able to apply for permanent residency.”
The NSW Government's move has also been welcomed by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
“This decision ensures that clients in all states and territories can get equal access to this scheme,” said a departmental spokeswoman.
The State Government says NSW will assess each application for the waiver on a case-by-case, cost-versus-benefit basis.
It says a number of factors will be assessed, including the skills of the applicant and whether those skills are in short supply.