Report of the inquiry into efficacy of current regulation of Aus migration and education agents

I spoke in Parliament on the Report of the inquiry into efficacy of current regulation of Australian migration and education agents as the Deputy Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration.

This was a wide-ranging inquiry. It was also a timely inquiry, because it's always a good thing for the parliament to review the operations and the actions of migration agents. Generally, most of us as members of parliament will receive many complaints from our constituents about all sorts of things, but one of the more common complaints from constituents is around the negative experiences they've encountered at the hands of migration agents.


This was a very good inquiry, and it was an inquiry that also looked at the education agents. This was an introduction to the inquiry that very little examination has taken place in relation to education agents and how they operate. The international education industry is Australia's third-largest export sector and the country's leading service export sector. International students studying and living in Australia contribute some $30.3 billion to the Australian economy, and that was the figure for 2017.

We heard anecdotal evidence that education agents, using their overseas businesses, were attempting to circumvent Australian migration regulations. As a result, those students who had the courage—we met with some of them in Sydney—came forward to give on-record evidence. I certainly spoke to them and so did the chair off the record. When they did find the courage to speak to us and raise concerns, they told us they were more often than not threatened. They were also threatened when they wanted to change courses, education providers or leave the country. So there is a very unsavoury thing going on in this space between education agents, international students and some colleges.

Another issue that was raised with us was that education agents who were not registered were also providing immigration advice. There was a very real fear by the students who had received this advice about complaining, because, more often than not, they were afraid it would impact on their visa application. So the committee agreed to examine the need to regulate education agents. The ones that were more difficult to pin down were the ones who were operating overseas.

At the end of the day, education providers are responsible for their education agents' actions, but the committee heard significant evidence that providers were not taking any responsibility whatsoever. International students had little consumer protection, and international education regulators and education providers did not provide any assistance to students who were affected. To address this, I draw the parliament's attention to recommendations 5, 6, 7 and 8, which, we believe, are recommendations that ensure education agents meet a set of requirements, including a government authorised training course and continued professional development.