I actually think in some ways that the biggest distortion to the labour market may have been in the student visa program. Casual hospitality and retail jobs are ideal for students but they are also ideal jobs for people whose ability to work may be limited by disability or caring responsibilities and or people attempting to transition back into the workforce part time. To be blunt, when faced with the choice between employing a series of healthy, young people with few family responsibilities or a middle aged person with adult children and ageing parents to support (or a disability), most employers would see it as an easy call and employ the students.
As uncomfortable as I am with the language used in the removed post, I am also forced to acknowledge that service stations were absolutely notorious for employing large numbers of international students and deliberately underpaying them in order to make their businesses more profitable. For people looking for retail work, those practices likely had a tangible impact on their ability to find and retain employment.
The really difficult thing about the student programs is how unequal the impact was likely to have been and this is the bit that makes me squirm today. If you are an academic, international students ensure you employment, which is great. If you are a government (or a tax-payer in a professional career I suppose), they allow you to have a higher education sector without needing to pay for it yourself, which is nice. For people reliant on low paid customer-facing work, the programs seem to provide few benefits and force already marginalised workers to compete for a shrinking pool of work. And that’s really never been publicly acknowledged by anyone until recently as far as I can see.
I’m not for a moment suggesting that people shouldn’t be permitted to migrate but it might be worth investigating who actually benefits from bringing people into the country on the basis of their job-ready skills. Providing settlement support for the vulnerable might look more expensive on a ledger but for most people (including the refugees and asylum seekers involved) it might actually benefit the broader community more than arranging migration purely in terms of importing workers to keep wages low.