20 January 2009

Next economic stimulus should focus on jobs, tax cuts: Australian opposition

Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull has implored the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to focus on jobs and tax cuts if the Government is to secure a second stimulus package for Australia, reports The Australian.

The Government is considering introducing a second stimulus package following the first one implemented late last year in response to the global economic slowdown.  Mr Turnbull has called for the Government to take heed of the shortfalls from the first package, despite the fact that its full economic impact remains unconfirmed.  

The Government paid out $10.4 billion to families, pensioners, and careers one month before Christmas so that consumers would increase their spending; however, chairman of the super-retailer Harvey Norman says the handouts may already be losing their fiscal effects.

"Now that I've looked at my first couple of weeks or three weeks (of) sales in January, they're not good," Mr Harvey said on ABC radio.
"My view is if there'd been no fiscal stimulus I don't think it would have been much different."

Mr Turnbull used these comments to argue for a stimulus package that focuses on long-term economic plans.

"Every element, every aspect of government policy must be directed on preserving and promoting employment," he said.

He also urged businesses to think carefully about laying off employees.

"Virtually every business, large or small in Australia, has its best assets among its employees. Well-run companies, companies with leaders that have vision for the long term, will do everything they can to keep their team together.  That will be their strategy."

Mr Turnbull's argument did not focus on the debate regarding Australian skilled migration; however, in the lead-up to the 2009-10 Budget, its effects on the Australian economy, environment and infrastructure continues to be a primary focus.

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

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 luring skilled 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."

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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