Yesterday I wrote to Prime Minister Julia Gillard expressing concern about a report in The Economic Times, that Australia intends to ‘target’ Chandigarh, Punjab and other cities in northern India with a promotional campaign in 2012 looking to attract skilled migrants.
I told the Prime Minister I do not want the number of skilled migrants to increase, and do not support Australia running promotional campaigns to try to attract migrants.
I cannot see how running promotional campaigns to attract skilled migrants is consistent with the Prime Minister’s pre-election statements that she does not believe in a ‘Big Australia’ and that ‘we need to stop and take a breath’. I also think this pre-empts the Sustainable Population Strategy for Australia being developed by Population Minister Tony Burke.
I have three objections to the idea of recruiting our workforce from other countries. First, there is nothing humanitarian whatsoever about it. Workers with real skills in developing countries are more valuable where they are, and we should not try to strip these countries of their best and brightest for our own advantage. Surely it is more humanitarian for us to have a more compassionate approach to those in refugee camps who are pleading for us to allow them to come here, than to poach and ‘target’ people who otherwise have shown no desire to live in Australia.
Secondly, our high skilled migration program comes at the expense of skilling and training young Australians. Broadmeadows, just to the north of my electorate, has unemployment in excess of 15%. These people are entitled to our attention. Our disability pension numbers continue to rise. The Prime Minister said last December that “we’ll need to decide that we seriously want to be a high participation economy….where everyone who has the capacity to work has the opportunity to work.” “And we’ll need to decide we are seriously prepared to change the policies which stop that happening now.” She is absolutely right, and a key policy which stops that happening, and which we need to decide we are seriously prepared to change, is the high skilled migration policy.
Third, the extent of the recent floods means we will have our work cut out rebuilding and repairing damaged infrastructure. This is no time to be trying to be trying to meet the additional infrastructure requirements of a rapidly increasing population.
Numerous studies show that new arrivals come with a big infrastructure requirement – they bring their families with them, and all require houses, roads, schools, hospitals etc., and many require English-language and other forms of assistance. One academic has found that population growth of 2% in a community doubles the infrastructure task of that community. In the years ahead the building industry will have its work cut out for it in rebuilding flood hit towns and communities. Nationally we’ve just had a flood come through the house. This is a time for replacing the carpets and the furniture and getting the power back on, not putting on an extension.
I do not support the increase in the skilled migration program under the Howard Government from 24,000 in the mid-90s to over 100,000 by the time of the change of government. I believe the program should be returned to around 25,000 per annum.
I have asked the Prime Minister how many ‘promotional campaigns’ the Government is planning to run in 2011 and 2012 in relation to skilled migration, and what their expected cost is.
I have also suggested putting on hold plans for such programs until the Sustainable Population Strategy has been completed.