A billion-dollar plan to outsource the visa processing system is facing uncertainty with advice from officials warning legislative change is likely to be needed for the overhaul to go ahead.
The Department of Home Affairs is tendering to build and manage a new online visa system to assist in the processing of more than nine million applications each year.
But the push is facing political opposition from Labor, the Greens and Centre Alliance concerned the “privatisation” would undermine the system’s integrity.
Labor’s assistant immigration spokesperson Andrew Giles told SBS News the plan to outsource the visa system is “disastrous” and should be scrapped.
“It is impossible to understate how important having public confidence and ultimately public oversight for our visa processing system is,” he said.
“We’ve seen an enormous amount of public money spent on a plan that has no public merit.”
A department briefing, dated May 2019, released under Freedom of Information, and seen by SBS News, has advised the commercial model would “likely require new supporting legislation.”
This means any attempt to overhaul the visa system could require political support, despite the so-called Global Digital Platform already being put out for tender last year.
Two private consortiums are vying for the $1 billion contract to build and manage the single online platform, which would receive, process and provide visas for applicants.
But there are fears the move could de-humanise the visa process, despite assurances from the Department of Home Affairs their oversight will remain.
“The Department will retain responsibility for business rules that determine what the platform does, and accountability for sovereign functions including decision making, security, and risk assessment,” the briefing said.