Friday, 6th of March 2015

 

Issue #1 March

 

TOP STORY

 
 

ISSUES OF THIS MONTH

 

Tony Shepherd backs migration hike to offset ageing population

AUSTRALIA will need more than 250,000 new migrants a year to raise living standards and add $1.6 trillion to the economy, according to new analysis backed by one of the government’s top business advisers.

The head of the government’s commission of audit, Tony Shepherd, has warned that the migration intake should be maintained at current levels and then rise in the years ahead to confront the challenges of an ageing population.

The new study by the Migration Council of Australia says a steady climb in the migration intake will be crucial to tackling the long-term pressures on the nation as the nation heads towards a population of about 40 million by 2055.

The study highlights the risk of lower growth and deeper budget deficits if policy decisions are made to scale back the migrant intake at a time when the union movement is campaigning against the use of skilled foreign workers. Reprising the “big Australia” debate of five years ago, the analysis offers a crucial check on the government’s Intergenerational Report, which will be released today to back Joe Hockey’s argument for budget reform.

The council’s findings make it clear that a lower migration intake would reduce growth, undermine attempts to increase workforce participation and make it harder to cut welfare dependency.

Yet the government has chosen a lower migration intake of 215,000 a year as the base -assumption for the IGR, sparking a debate over whether the figure is too small and could produce lower growth than otherwise.

The IGR forecast is below the net overseas migration of 224,300 over the past year in the government’s latest tally. The Australian can reveal that other key forecasts in the IGR include annual GDP growth of about 2.8 per cent on average, a troubling fall in the workforce participation rate as people age but a gradual rise in life expectancy to an average of almost 90.

In a sign that Australians will live healthier and longer lives, by mid-century there will be about 35,000 people over the age of 100. The continued arrival of young migrants will be essential to dealing with the ageing of the population.

Mr Shepherd, who was previously president of the Business Council of Australia and chairman of the Migration Council, said the country had to maintain the current intake. “As the population rises we should consider raising the rate, having regard to our capacity for absorption,” he said.

A central conclusion in the Migration Council analysis is that keeping net overseas migration at current levels will add $1.6 trillion to the Australian economy every year by mid-century, driving almost half the country’s economic growth over the coming decades.

Drawing on government data showing net overseas migration will be 257,000 in 2018, the council forecasts the steady inflow of new and younger workers will ease the pressures of an ageing population as the country has to support more older Australians who cannot work.

The population is expected to climb to 40.2 million by 2055, but a halt to the migrant intake would see the population stagnate at 24 million, the Migration Council report says.

“Critically, the report shows migrants contribute more than existing residents,” said Migration Council chief executive Carla Wilshire.

Migrants rely less on government benefits and contribute more to the workforce because they are generally younger than other Australian residents and pay for their education before they arrive in Australia or when they get here. “This research refutes the commonly held view that migration reduces the capacity of Australians to find work, showing little impact on the unemployed,” Ms Wilshire said. “Our report shows Australia’s skilled migration framework plays an important role in helping mitigate the worst effects of income inequality without punishing Australian job seekers.”

Disputes over population growth have been sparked with each release of the official Treasury forecasts in the Intergenerational Report, including a backlash against Kevin Rudd when he voiced support for a “big Australia” in early 2010.

The 2010 report forecast a population of 35.9 million by 2050 but this was based on net overseas migration of only 180,000 — a figure that was obsolete within a few years.

Net overseas migration was 224,300 in the year to June 2014 and will climb to 257,000 in 2018 according to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s latest figures.

 
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Student Visa Programme See Growth Across All Sectors

Australia’s student visa programme is experiencing strong growth in all sectors with the total number of student visa grants up by 12.6% in the 2013/2014 financial year, according to the latest official data to be published.

Some 259,278 visas were granted and the increase was primarily driven by an increase in grants of the Higher Education Sector visa (subclass 573) which saw a rise of 19.7%, the figures from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection show.

China remained the largest source country for student visa grants, followed by India, the Republic of Korea, Vietnam and Brazil. Of all student visas granted, 45.2 % were granted to citizens of these five countries with students from China making up 20.7% of these.

After the Higher Education Sector visa, the Vocational Education and Training Sector visa (subclass 572) was the second most popular student visa category, accounting for 20.8% of total student visas granted.

Offshore student visa grants increased for the third year in a row. There was growth in offshore grants to citizens of all five top source countries, with grants to Indian nationals increasing by 128.6% compared with the previous financial year.

The figures also show that on 30 June 2014 there were 339,763 student visa holders in Australia compared with 304,251 student visa holders in Australia on 30 June 2013, an 11.7% increase.

The Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485) allows eligible international students to live and work temporarily in Australia after they have finished their studies. The visa has two streams:

the graduate work stream is for eligible international students who graduate with skills and qualifications that relate to an occupation on the skilled occupations list (SOL).

The post study work stream was introduced on 23 March 2013 for certain international students who graduate with a higher education degree from an Australian education provider, regardless of their field of study. This stream is only available to students who applied for and were granted their first student visa to Australia on or after 05 November 2011.

In 2013/2014 there were 22,867 Temporary Graduate visas granted, 35.1% less than the previous year. Of these, 15,661 were granted in the graduate work stream and 1,140 in the post-study work stream.

China, India and Nepal were the top three source countries for Temporary Graduate visas in 2013/2014, accounting for 57.5% of visa grants and on 30 June 2014 there were 25,198 Temporary Graduate visa holders in Australia compared with 36,224 on 30 June 2013.

During 2013/2014 some 48.9% of offshore student visa applications were lodged online compared to 72.8% of onshore applications in the same period. Currently, only applicants applying for a subsequent student visa in Australia, low risk applicants or residents of India, Indonesia, Thailand and China who apply through an authorised agent are eligible to lodge their student visa application online.

A DIBP spokesman said that the department actively monitors the streamlined visa processing arrangements and works closely with education providers to ensure that any immigration risk issues that arise are actively addressed. ‘After two years of streamlined visa processing, the arrangements are generally working well,’ he added.

He also explained that the broad objectives of the student visa programme are to offer an opportunity for people who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents to study internationally recognised courses in a progressive, secure and culturally diverse learning environment.

 
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Calls for Immigration and Citizenship Change to be Carefully Considered

Proposed changes to immigration and citizenship rules in Australia in the aftermath of terrorist concerns should not be rushed, according to migrant and community groups.

Some changes proposed recently in Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s national security speech have been described as unnecessary and an overreaction to the Lindt Cafe hostage crisis last December.

One of the new measures will see a strengthening of immigration laws and the development of amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act. Once legislated this would allow the government to revoke Australian citizenship to dual nationals found to be in breach of national security laws.

‘Clearly, the situation with the Sydney siege has nothing to do with immigration laws. Just because one person has turned out to be a bad egg doesn’t mean that you have to revisit all our immigration system and laws and our way of processing people,’ said Islamic Council of Victoria secretary Kuranda Seyit.

He believes that changing the laws around dual citizenship would not deter those intending to commit acts of terrorism. ‘Why should we overhaul a lot of our laws and our processes that have worked for centuries, or not centuries but years and years, because of a tiny minority of people?’ he added.

Angela Chan, national president of the Migration Institute of Australia, has urged care. ‘It’s a matter of how change is implemented and whether there will be any collateral damage on people left behind in Australia who may be parts of the family unit of any person who travels overseas,’ she said.

She pointed out that no details have yet been given. ‘We now need to see the next level of detail which explains what effect these new laws will have in the community once enacted,’ she added.

Ending welfare payments and the refusal to grant a protection visa to people who destroy evidence of their identity are two areas Chan highlighted as needing more detail. ‘No government would want to continue paying welfare to people suspected or found to be in breach of national security, but cancelling these payments may also impact upon their family members, who often have nothing to do with the national security breach,’ she said.

‘We need to have some understanding of how family members would be supported if this scenario were to play out. Refusing protection visas for people who do not have or who destroy their identification documents will leave many refugee and asylum seekers in limbo. Often these people are fleeing their countries in a time of crisis and when you are fighting to stay alive, taking all your documentation isn’t always possible,’ she added.

Joe Caputo, chairman of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, believes that threatening dual nationals with revoking their passports is a fraught issue. ‘I don’t feel very comfortable about that direction,’ he said.

‘I think it would have to be very careful, because I think that, in this day and age, the rule of law should apply and people should be given natural justice, whoever they happen to be. With threats of removing citizenship from those who have dual citizenship, it would cause a lot of unrest and a lot of concern,’ he explained.

 

Western Australia Needs Number of Highly Specialised Experts in Oil and Gas

Western Australia might not be the first choice for overseas jobs seekers but the Australian state has an increasing number of openings for temporary staff on contract work.

According to recruitment firm Hays project delays and cost pressures in Western Australia are making hiring and workforce planning increasingly challenging. Contrary to previous years, contract roles are being given definitive end dates and for the most part, these timelines are being adhered to.

The majority of businesses are tendering for operations and maintenance contracts. There are few permanent positions as employers need to prove strong commercial grounds for adding full time employees to their teams.

There has been, however, a steady flow of permanent roles in Victoria, predominantly from small to medium sized equipment design and manufacturing organisations and the firm expects momentum to continue.

It also reports an increasing need for temporary staff with gas pipeline experience as a number of contractorshave picked up work. Both white and blue collar candidates are being considered.

In Western Australia there is demand for cost engineers as employers continue to look for cost saving measures and improve efficiency. There is also a need for wireline engineers and operators as the oilfield services sector is finding it challenging to recruit senior level candidates with the appropriate experience.

Electrical technicians are in short supply in both in Western Australia and nationally and competition from the east coastmeans the various construction projects in the West are finding it increasingly difficult to attract highly specialised welders.

In Queensland there is demand for planners and coordinators for new infrastructure, particularly in Gladstone and the Surat Basin and also for commissioning engineers. Petroleum engineers with coal bed methane or tight gas experience are also needed.

Within the Victorian oil and gas market, physical market traders with gas experience are needed as the focus on gas operations continues to increase across the board and companies are looking for gas workers with operational gas pipeline experience as more insertion and maintenance work is released to contractors.

Despite the manufacturing sector experiencing challenging market conditions, oil and gas equipment design houses are still growing and candidates within this market have confidence to move to new roles. This is creating vacancies in this sector.

 
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Cashed-up Chinese head Australian tourism boom

CASHED-UP Chinese tourists are flocking to Australia in droves with a 21 per cent increase in visitor visa applications on last year.

Australia continues to be a hotspot for Chinese tourists, with Immigration Department figures showing close to 600,000 visitor visa applications from China were lodged in 2014, up 21 per cent on the previous year.

In 2015, Lunar New Year visitor visa volumes are up 23 per cent, compared to 2014, with over 120,000 visitor visas finalised to date this calendar year.

The drop in the Australian dollar seems to have also spurred a return of visitors from the United States with a 7.4 increase in visa applications in the December quarter compared to 2013.

As the Bali Nine ringleaders prepare to face the firing squad it can also be revealed that visitors from Indonesia have dropped by 7.7 per cent.

Visitors from the UK have also slumped by 3.6 per cent.

However, despite several areas of the economy flopping, tourism remains strong with the total visitor visa applications up 6 per cent on this time last year.

Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Michaelia Cash yesterday said Australia was “highly competitive” when it came to Chinese tourism.

“Making it possible for Asian markets to grow has been a key priority for the Abbott Government,” Senator Cash told News Corp Australia.

“China is our most valuable tourism export market and we recognise the significance of emerging markets, in particular the Chinese holiday maker market.”

Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the government was committed to keeping the tourism industry strong.

“Australia is a diverse and unique destination for international travellers and the Coalition Government is committed to ensuring we capitalise on our tourism opportunities,” Mr Robb said.

Tourism Australia yesterday told News Corp Australia that recent forecasts indicate the Chinese market could be worth up to $13 billion to the Australian economy.

The latest figures also follow a recent decision in January by the government to open new direct airline routes between China and Australia and lift the cap on the number of flights and passengers between China and Australia.

 
 

We hope that you have found the information in this issue of our newsletter to be enriching and useful. Stay tuned for our next publication and if you would like to talk to us directly, please do not hesitate to email service@noborders-group.com. In addition, if you would like your contact details updated or removed from this distribution list or you know someone who would like to be added, please email us on the same address.

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