Secondly it is astonishing that they want to increase the number of migrant workers when we are already unable to find jobs for Australian workers, including those who have come here on previous permanent Migrant Worker Programs. Last month unemployment increased by 3,400 to 712,500 Australians who cannot find work, and this number is forecast to increase. Official forecasts are that the jobless rate will rise within about 18 months to 6.25%, and stay there through to the end of 2016-17. More Australians will be out of work than at any time during the past decade, and far more than during the Global Financial Crisis. The forthcoming closures of Ford and Holden, job losses at Qantas, concerns for jobs at SPC Ardmona and Alcoa, the resources industry construction workforce winding back – all the indicators are that many Australians, including migrant workers, are looking for work or will be looking for work in the near future. They are entitled to our first consideration.
The Australian Industry Group says that increasing migrant numbers is needed to “support positive growth in our population”, and refers to relatively low levels of natural population growth. This is incorrect. For each of the past thirty-six years I have gone back to check this, births have exceeded deaths in Australia by over 100,000 – we have natural population increase by over 100,000 every year without any migration at all. In any event, population growth is not a good thing. It is putting great pressure on our environment, quality of life, housing affordability, traffic congestion etc.
The permanent Migrant Worker Program, referred to as “Skilled Migration”, should be used to bring workers with skills that it is not possible to find in Australia, not used as a catch all scheme – recently we even saw calls to bring in truck drivers from overseas. It should not be used to drive population growth, not used to put downward pressure on wages and conditions, and not used as a substitute for genuine action to train and skill young Australians. If we are fair dinkum about reducing unemployment, and fair dinkum about increasing workforce participation, we will reduce migrant worker programs, not increase them, and build and use the skills of out-of-work Australians.