Labor promises massive increase in migration to lure workers
Paul Kelly, Editor-at-Large | May 17, 2008
IMMIGRATION Minister Chris Evans wants a major overhaul of the migrant program to boost numbers, promote unskilled as well as skilled applicants and gear Australia to the new global competition for workers.
Predicting a "great national debate over the next few years", Senator Evans said he planned to bring a series of cabinet submissions to reform a "model that is out of date" and too unresponsive to employer needs. He said the debate about temporary migration was over; the coming debate would be about semi-skilled and unskilled migrants to meet labour shortages.
Next month, cabinet is expected to approve a pilot program for a guest worker scheme from the South Pacific. Senator Evans called this a "stalking horse" for the larger debate on unskilled migration.
His comments came after the Rudd Government's first budget, delivered on Tuesday, lifted permanent and temporary migration for 2008-09 to nearly 300,000 in the biggest annual increase since the program's inception by the Chifley government in the 1940s.
The skilled component of the permanent intake is running at 70 per cent, probably the highest ever.
"My general view is that we are increasingly facing a labour shortage, not just a skills shortage," Senator Evans told The Weekend Australian.
"The demands of business are hitting us in the face. What I'm thinking about is a fairly serious overhaul of the migration system and trying to design a visa and migration system that meets the realities of the 21st century and the internationalisation of the labour market.
"There is a lack of responsiveness to employer needs. What's not widely understood is that there is a global competition for labour. The workforce is more contract based. BHP (Billiton) brings an engineer here from South America for two years and he'll be in Africa two years later. It's the nature of his work."
Asked about the hefty increase in the intake announced on budget night, Senator Evans said: "It was certainly driven by the economics.
"No doubt Wayne Swan had his eyeon wage inflation pressure and Treasury advice about that. But fundamentally it's a response to the huge demand for labour."
Senator Evans said the Government's first response to shortages was more education and training but "the reality is that there are demands now that won't be met by that agenda". This was true in the short-term and long-term.
He said he had two aims - to make the program more responsive to industry and to restore its integrity, notably the457 temporary visas, to eliminate exploitation and any undermining of Australian conditions. This was critical because there was urgent pressure on the 457 program for a shift down the skill scale from professionals such as doctors and engineers to tradesmen and IT workers.
"The demand is often for truck drivers, store managers, below tradesman-level jobs in the mining industry," Senator Evans said. "More broadly we have an ageing population. My inclination is not to do reviews, but get on with it. As a cabinet, we are engaged with this issue.
"I think Australians are prepared to accept strong migration provided they think we need the skills and contributions that people bring."
He foreshadowed a relaxation of the former government's rigid rules about migrants' ability to speak English. Some of its measures were "pretty clunky and actually stopped business operating".
Perhaps Senator Evans would be kind enough to explain how this massive increase in immigration, mostly from the Third World, will benefit the existing Australian population. We hear much about the supposed benefits for all of mass immigration, but I'm yet to see a single study that outlines the specific benefits of mass immigration to this country’s host population. I want to see less clichés and sophisms, and more hard facts. I want to see the full economic costs of immigration taken into consideration. And the social and environmental impacts, as well.
Studies from both Australia and abroad have concluded that immigration has little positive impact on GDP per capita. And the Rudd Government isn't even hiding the fact that it's using immigration to hold down wages. Are immigration enthusiasts seriously claiming that lower wage growth somehow benefits the current citizenry of Australia? And what about the effect of mass immigration on housing affordability? There can be no doubt that large-scale immigration is driving up the demand for housing, pricing native-born Australians out of the market.
There is another major drawback to mass immigration: the destruction of the social, cultural, linguistic, and ethnic cohesion required for national unity. Current immigration policy is not only adversely affecting the living standards of the existing population through a combination of lower wage growth, higher rents and housing costs, more urban congestion, more pollution, and more pressure on public services and infrastructure, it's also threatening the Australian nation itself with ethnic fragmentation.
Not that these inconvenient truths about mass immigration evidently bother Mr. Evans. Who needs to do 'reviews' when you can simply regurgitate fallacious open-borders arguments?
Mr. Evans may claim that he wants to see a "great national debate" about immigration. Yet as long as the Establishment and its media mouthpieces continue to exaggerate the benefits of immigration, while completely ignoring the costs, any real debate seems unlikely.