19 January 2009

Debate about Australian skilled migration quota continues

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In the lead-up to the 2009-10 Budget, the debate regarding Australian skilled migration and its effects on the Australian economy, environment and infrastructure continues, reports the International Herald Tribune.

The Australian Conservation Fund (ACF) has called for a cut in the Australian skilled migration quota in the 2009-10 Budget in order to protect the environment, reports ABC News.

The ACF submitted a Budget report to the Treasury this month that urged the Government to make a "substantial reduction" to the annual skilled migration quota.  The report argues that if Australian immigration were to continue at its record rates, its population would triple by the end of the century, thereby placing great strain on the country's infrastructure, resources and environment.

However, economic analysts are arguing that encouraging people to move to Australia is the best way to plug the growing skills gap in the Australian workforce; jobless rate in Australia and abroad is rising during the global financial crisis, and many see Australian migration as the answer to the growing critical skills shortage.

"There's going to be an extraordinary pool of experienced people looking for work and a real chance for Australia to fill gaps in sectors like health and engineering, which are crying out for them," Stephen Roberts, an economist at Nomura, told reporters.

"For economists, the case for skilled migration is cast iron, but as unemployment creeps higher, policy makers will surely come under pressure to cut back, and that would be a shame," he added.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans said his government would reassess the migration quota in-line with the predictions of the Australian economy, all the while remaining aware of public opinion.

"There's no doubt in my view that there's a strong link between the economic cycle and people's attitude towards immigration," Evans said.

Senator Evans also insisted his Government would create a more targeted, holistic and future-planned immigration programme.

"To ensure that the migration program truly is in Australia's interest, a long-term population policy should be established which stabilises Australia's population in the long term at an ecologically sustainable level," the submission says.

"The policy should be formulated in light of the environmental impacts of increasing population and sustainable development, rather than the current focus on short-term industry and economic objectives."

Currently, the annual Australian immigration quota is sitting at 190,300 places for Australian visas, which is an increase of 37,500 places during the 2007-08 financial year.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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