01 April 2005

Australian Treasurer reiterates support for increases to Australian immigration

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Australian Treasurer Peter Costello warned this week Australia's labour shortage crisis will get significantly worse in the decades ahead.

As a result, Mr Costello reiterated his support for an increase in Australian immigration and skilled visa migration to help deal with the problem.

He said new figures released showing job vacancies at record high levels could be an early taste of what will become a long-term problem for Australia. He said the Australian economy was at a favourable point in the economic cycle and measures should be taken now to improve performance.

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Thursday showed job vacancies jumped 6.2 per cent in the February quarter to 148,300 - the highest level since records started in 1979.

Mr Costello said the labour shortages were a result of Australia's strong run of economic growth and the government wanted to boost the labour supply to fill job vacancies.

He said the government would look at increasing skilled immigration to help solve the problem. But he said increased competition from other countries meant recruiting skilled immigrants was not as easy as it once was.

Mr Costello said he believed more should be done to encourage people to broaden the areas they look for work in. He believes there should be a greater emphasis on finding work in areas of labour shortage.

Mr Costello also reiterated the government's desire to overhaul the industrial relations system to help improve productivity. But he warned that if wages were allowed to rise without similar increases in productivity, there was a risk that inflation would also rise and Australia's prosperity falter.

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