Newsletter 180

Medibank fails to block investigation into data hack 

The Federal Court has rejected Medibank’s efforts to halt an investigation into the October 2022 data breach. Justice Jonathan Beach declined Medibank’s request to block the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) from conducting its inquiry into the significant data breach affecting 9.7 million Australians. Medibank also failed to prevent the OAIC from issuing determinations, potentially mandating the implementation of proper procedures.

 The OAIC, if it discovers serious or repeated violations of privacy laws, can impose civil penalties of up to $2.2 million per contravention. Medibank, anticipating cybercrime costs of $30 million to $35 million this fiscal year, faces multiple challenges, including class actions and a $250 million penalty from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

Maurice Blackburn’s principal lawyer, Andrew Watson, is examining the breach to assess whether Medibank’s customers are eligible for compensation. Watson emphasized Medibank’s heightened responsibility as custodians of personal health information to establish robust safeguards against unauthorized access or disclosure.

The data breach involved a demand for $15.6 million by the group REvil, which threatened to release the information online.

Migration Program Planning

The government plans to extend migration planning beyond the existing 12-month cycle to address critical skills shortages and enhance collaboration with states and territories.

Anticipated net overseas migration figures are projected to decrease from 510,000 in the 2022-23 fiscal year to 375,000 in the next fiscal year (2023-2024) and further decline to 250,000 in 2024-25. It is expected that these numbers will stabilize at this reduced level thereafter

International student enrollment rose to 270,000 in 2022-23, compared to 170,000 in 2018-19 before the onset of COVID-19. The pandemic prompted the return of students who had previously been compelled to pursue online and offshore studies.

Temporary visa holders, including those with Temporary Skilled, Working Holiday Maker, and COVID pandemic event visas, constituted 180,000 positions in 2022-23, an increase from 100,000 in 2018-19.

State and Territory nominations for January 2024

The Department’s website now reflects the recent update containing the count of nominations submitted by State and Territory governments for subclass 190 and subclass 491 during the month of January. The figures for the nominations made by each State and Territory government between 31 December 2023 and 31 January 2024 are as follows:

 Visa Subclass  ACT   NSW   NT   QLD   SA   TAS   VIC   WA  
 Skilled Nominated visa (subclass 190)    22  26  3  121  9  49  254  443 
  Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491) State and Territory Nominated  9  683  50  55  131  28  75  295 

Further information such as the total number of nominations made by State and Territory governments from 1 July 2023 to 31 January 2024 can be found on the Department’s website 

Closure of the 408 Covid visa

Pandemic Event 408 Covid visa holders can apply for a subsequent visa until the visa is fully closed by February 2024, with this option available after 2 September 2023. However, all other visa holders will no longer be eligible for the Pandemic Event visa after 2 September 2023.

Visa applications submitted before 2 September 2023 will be assessed for a 12-month validity, and for Temporary Graduate 485 visa holders, the validity period will be extended to 2 years. On the other hand, those submitting a visa application on or after 2 September 2023 must possess a Pandemic Event visa expiring in 28 days or less. Furthermore, visa applications made from 2 September 2023 onward will be considered for a stay of up to 6 months.

Starting 2 September 2023, the Pandemic Event visa will only accept applications from existing Pandemic Event visa holders.

Student SC500 visas (GTE and higher English requirements)

The Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement for student visa applications will be substituted with a new Genuine Student (GS) requirement. This shift aims to provide evidence that aids the Department of Home Affairs in ensuring that applications originate from authentic students.

In early 2024, the Australian Government will raise the English language requirements for Student visas to enhance learning and employment outcomes.

The required test score for a Student 500 visa will be elevated from IELTS (or equivalent) 5.5 to 6.0. For students undergoing an English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) prior to their primary course of study, the required test score will increase from IELTS (or equivalent) 4.5 to 5.0. Students enrolled in university foundation or pathway programs delivering reputable English language training will need an IELTS (or equivalent) score of 5.5.

Confirmation of Enrolment concurrently cannot be issued until students have completed six months of their courses. Additionally, there will be an increase in the amount of savings that international students must demonstrate when applying for a student visa.

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