More skilled immigration proposed for Australia

27 March 2006


Australian immigration could be accepting up to 180,000 migrants within two years. This would be the highest intake since the late 1960's.

Big business in Australia is putting pressure on the Australian Federal Government to plug skills shortages by increasing the numbers of migrant workers. But another huge rise in the immigrant intake could cause concerns about the impact on jobs locally.

The Australian Industry Group has lobbied the government to add up 20,000 skilled places for the Skilled Migration Program. This would bring the total for skilled immigration for 2006/2007 to 160,000. A further 20,000 places are called for by the AIG the following year.

This total would be the second highest number of skilled immigrants to Australia since 1969/1970 when 185,000 workers immigrated.

Last year, the Government increased skilled migration by 20,000 places after pressure from the AIG and other business groups.

AIG chief executive Heather Ridout said yesterday the government had worked hard to listen to industry views over the past year.

They have been very responsive. They understand we have major skills shortages, and we are a very pro-immigration organisation, she said.

But Ms Ridout urged the Government to focus more on tradespeople and less on professionals such as accountants and IT experts.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone, who is preparing a Cabinet submission on the migrant intake, said there was still strong demand for skilled workers.

A report on skilled migration, conducted by three academics including Monash University demographer Dr Bob Birrell, is being considered before the Cabinet submission by Senator Vanstone.

Senator Vanstone said the resources boom had highlighted the need for more engineers, but also for carpenters and cooks working at mining sites.

It is believed some government ministers are concerned about the quality of skilled immigrants, many of whom are unable to get jobs because of poor English and a lack of relevant experience.

Federal Labor's education and training spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, said the Government had failed to train enough Australians.

This has turned the normal flow of skilled migrants required by business into a flood. It's the Government's only response to the skills crisis, she said

Ms Macklin said 1.2 million Australians were either unemployed or underemployed.