Michael Pickering, Daily Mail, November 23, 2021
A new poll has found a majority of Australians want the country to accept less migrants than before the Covid-19 pandemic, as 200,000 foreigners are set to arrive in coming months.
The Resolve Strategic poll for 9Fairfax newspapers found 58 per cent of those surveyed believe reopening Australia to migrants should start at a lower level than before the pandemic.
The poll result comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia would welcome back fully vaccinated skilled workers, international students and those on working holiday, family and humanitarian visas from December 1.
Up to 160,000 students and 50,000 skilled workers are expected to return to Australia in the next few months.
‘We’re expecting probably around about 200,000 or thereabouts that fit into the skilled and other visa categories that we would hope would take this up,’ Mr Morrison said this week.
About 20 per cent of those polled indicated a preference for permanent migration to Australia to resume at its former level of 160,000 people a year.
Australia’s shortage of skilled workers was exacerbated after it closed international borders at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Advisory group Infrastructure Australia has estimated one in three skilled jobs – around 105,000 roles – on infrastructure projects would go unfilled in Australia by 2023.
The organisation said by 2025, Australia could expect a shortfall of 70,000 scientists and engineers, 19,000 project management professionals and 28,000 trades and labour workers.
‘We are seeing one of the most severe skills shortages in about two decades affecting the Australian economy,’ Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Andrew McKellar said recently.
He suggested Australia’s skilled migration program needed to lift to as many as 200,000 new arrivals per year to meet worker shortages.
A majority of those polled thought family members of existing residents should be given priority as the migration program resumed, followed by partners of existing residents. About 40 per cent said priority should be given to skilled workers.
‘When people voice concerns about immigration we find it’s not generally about xenophobia or loss of identity,’ Resolve director Jim Reed told the Herald.
‘It’s more about the scale of immigration, and whether the economy, services and infrastructure are able to keep pace.’
Millionaire businessman and philanthropist Dick Smith recently claimed the decision to reopen borders to skilled workers was designed to push down labour costs for businesses.
‘It will keep wages down: that’s the main idea that the wealthy want to bring more people in,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘It’s called the marketplace: having more and more people applying for the available jobs.
‘They can train up Australians to do many of these jobs but that’s expensive whereas it’s so much cheaper to bring them in from overseas.
‘You can bring them in basically for nothing, if you’re one of the billionaires, it’s the easiest way of increasing your wealth, which is what they’re all about.’
Mr Smith also predicted house prices would rise further as a result of the push for a larger migrant intake.