Permanent Migrants on the Rise

Mark Metherell, Sydney Morning Herald, May 14, 2008

THE Government is to step up permanent immigration to a total of 190,300 people in the coming year—the highest level in years—on top of an estimated 100,000 temporary skilled migrants.

The rise in permanent migration largely reflects a significant boost in entry of skilled migrants. An extra 31,000 skilled migrants will be allowed into Australia, a rise of 30 per cent on last year’s intake.

The Minister for Immigration, Chris Evans, said the move represented a “record increase” in the permanent skilled migration program since the introduction of managed migration in 1947.

The scheme “has not been allowed to grow sufficiently in the past to respond to the skills shortages now faced by employers”, Senator Evans said.

The increase is on top of an additional 6000 skilled migration places announced in February.

Research had shown the labour market participation rate for permanent skilled migrants was now more than 90 per cent.

The increase will cost an additional $1.4 billion over four years for such things as settlement, health and education services. But Senator Evans said this would be more than offset by increased revenues generated by the migrants, including taxes estimated at nearly $3 billion in the same period.

The Government has also committed $19.6 million to improving compliance schemes for temporary skilled migrants, including those coming under the uncapped 457 visa scheme.

The controversial scheme, which unions have criticised for threatening to put pressure on wages and conditions, will account for nearly 50,000 foreign worker arrivals in the first half of this year. That compares with 39,500 of the 457 visas granted over a year in 2003-04.

The temporary skilled migration program is expected to exceed 100,000 both this year and next financial year.

Senator Evans said a ministerial working party would develop a longer-term reform package to be considered as part of next year’s budget.

The working party would consult state and territory governments, industry and the unions as well as an industrial relations expert, Barbara Deegan.

The Government will also grant a modest increase in the number of refugees, allowing entry to 13,500.

This will include a one-off rise of 500 places for people affected by the conflict in Iraq.

“We are committed to helping people in vulnerable situations around the world, in particular Iraqi nationals and refugees in Africa who are unable to return to their homes,” Senator Evans said.

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