Economy Boom Puts Pressure on Australian PM

May 9, 2011

The Australian government is under pressure to increase the annual migration target in next week’s budget despite the PM’s promise to abandon the commitment to a “big Australia”.

The resources boom is set to demand a greater intake of overseas skilled workers and a collapse in net overseas migration levels has put further pressure on the PM.

The skills shortage is primarily addressed by the permanent migration intake says Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott. “We believe at least two-thirds of the program should be skills-based so that people who come into the country have the skills we need for a stronger, increasingly diverse economy.”

The Business Council of Australia has called for the government to increase the net migration level to at least 180,000 a year. However the Immigration Department has reported that forecasts suggest the level has dropped to 179,600, a drop of over 40 per cent from the 315,000 peak in 2008.

The government briefs prepared by the Treasury Department for Labor and the Coalition said that rapid population growth was inevitable and sustainable. It has warned that flexibility in the economy should not be inhibited by strict immigration levels set by the government.

While the Treasury has pressed for an increase in permanent migration numbers the issue is a sticking point for the political parties. High levels of migration were one of the subjects that Ms Gillard built a campaign with, promising to cut down on levels of migration. With the booming economy the Australian prime minister is being pressured to go rethink the original strategy and increase the number of skilled workers allowed into the country.

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