WHILE abroad LNP ministers allege the so-called benefits from high immigration and Visa access … both of which have led to a loss in wages, insecure work, and the loss of housing affordability for Australians.
The Turnbull Government policies it would appear are leading to a monoculture with the 100% sell off of new homes particularly in China …
The LNP has accelerated the demise of the TAFE Institute it would seem deliberately to justify skills migration …
For the business community to maintain low wages growth and insecure work …
Scomo’s budget surplus relies on high population growth to boost the coffers of the Big End of Town
IS this government now set to repeat this in the regions?
Migration questions are getting louder
“One of the things we’re always seeking to do is to ensure we can encourage migrants to work in regional areas where there are more labour shortages and skills shortages than there are in the big cities,” says Malcolm Turnbull. Grant Wells
When abroad, Australian ministers like to boast of the success of Australia’s immigration policies in boosting economic growth while maintaining social cohesion.
At home and away, Malcolm Turnbull describes Australia as the most successful multicultural country in the world.
And in many countries, Australia’s skilled immigration program is certainly seen as a highly successful model to emulate.
The UK, struggling with the lack of social and economic integration of migrant communities concentrated in particular areas, is looking harder at the Australian approach post-Brexit.
But domestically, the tensions in that Australian success story are increasingly obvious.
Whether it’s the violence of Sudanese youth gangs in Melbourne or political calls for a radical decrease in the annual intake, questions about Australia’s immigration levels and approach are becoming much louder.
Political debate on this issue has always come in regular cycles in Australia – and is much broader than vitriolic arguments over asylum seekers and border security.
Nearly a decade ago, for example, new Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard quickly distanced herself in rhetoric – if not in practice – from Kevin Rudd’s vision of a “big Australia”.
Population, she declared, needed to be “sustainable” in terms of services, infrastructure and the environment. Neither her prime ministership nor the rhetoric lasted long enough to make any real difference.
Yet in Australia, as in so many other Western countries, community angst about the level of immigration as well as the level of cultural integration, particularly in Muslim communities, has been steadily building over the last decade.
Tony Abbott has been trying to spearhead some of this anxiety even if his comments, as usual, become too entangled with his attacks on Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership to get much traction with colleagues.
But Liberal Senator Dean Smith’s call for an inquiry in Australia’s population growth is falling on fertile Coalition ground even as politicians try desperately to avoid being accused of racism.
The government’s latest idea of pushing more migrants to settle in regional Australia is an attempt to assuage growing anger in cities like Sydney and Melbourne that population growth is leading to a decline in the quality of life, evident in massive congestion and inadequate infrastructure.
In yet another visit to the Queensland electorate of Longman, the Prime Minister declared on the weekend the government was always seeking to improve Australia’s immigration policy.
“One of the things we’re always seeking to do is to ensure we can encourage migrants to work in regional areas where there are more labour shortages and skills shortages than there are in the big cities,” he said.
Just how to entice immigrants to move to – and then to stay in – regional centres has always been far more elusive in policy terms.
It’s not as if such a policy can be enforced by internal borders. Most people, immigrant and Australian born alike, inevitably head to Australia’s already biggest cities.
In a speech to the Australia UK Leadership Forum in London last week, Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge pointed out Australia has a very high percentage of people born overseas – 28 per cent – with another 21 per cent having a parent born overseas. That adds up to just under half the population.
But the extreme urban concentration of Australia’s population, including its immigrant population, means this percentage is much, much higher in the cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, and particularly in certain suburbs of those cities.
That compares with 13 per cent of first-generation immigrants in the UK – where the government keeps promising, without success, to lower immigration levels to 100,000 a year due to community concerns.
The US figures for the percentage of the population born overseas are similar to those of the UK while Trump’s call to “build the wall” against illegal immigration remains one of the biggest drivers of his electoral appeal.
Australia is not immune to these forces. Tudge proudly noted the unemployment rate for Australian migrants is the same as for other Australians – unlike the UK where there’s a gap of 6 per cent.
This conveniently ignores the reality that Australia’s average figures are skewed by the high number of Chinese and Indian immigrants whose participation rates are extremely high.
And the minister, too, voiced gentle concern about “pockets” where there are problems, saying Australia is shifting a little too much towards “separatist” multiculturalism rather than the assimilationist model.
But any suggestion the government should toughen its approach to legal immigration is even more complicated.
It alarms a business community heavily dependent on maintaining Australia’s ready access to skilled migration.
Business leaders argue the government’s curbs on 457 visas for temporary skilled immigrants have already created problems in attracting “talent” vital to building the business opportunities and industries of the future.
The university sector, which bases its whole business model on a continuing flood of high fee paying international (mostly Chinese) students, is equally aghast at the notion this will become harder to maintain.
States like South Australia and regional centres facing population declines want more rather than fewer immigrants even if they are not attracting their share of national figures.
And Treasurer Scott Morrison’s promised budget surplus relies on continued high population growth, underpinned by high immigration, to boost economic growth.
So for all the renewed political focus on immigration and population, there’s little sign yet of this changing much as yet.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is keen to emphasise Australia undershot its annual 190,000 cap on permanent migrants – down to 163,000 last financial year.
But net overseas migration, including permanent and longer-term temporary migrants as well as departures, is still about 240,000 a year.
Tick, tock, tick.
Jennifer Hewett was in London as a guest of the Australia UK Leadership Forum