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Migration quota may rise again

Migration quota may rise again

Old Jan 19th 2002, 11:50 am
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Here's an article in today's Melbourne newspaper, The Age. Not too sure about "The government is set to announce more reforms to ensure that new migrants spread out over Australia, rather than clustering in Sydney and Melbourne. " though.

Nigel db

Migration quota may rise again

Saturday 19 January 2002

Skilled migration into Australia, already running at record levels, looks likely to be lifted again when the Federal Government decides Australia's new immigration quota in the next three months.

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock told The Age the government is certain to fill not only its target of 45,500 skilled migrants for the current financial year, but also the contingency reserve of 8000 places set aside for overseas students who choose to work in Australia after graduating.

From 24,100 skilled migrants given visas in Labor's last year, the Coalition government has now more than doubled the program to 53,500, beating the record the Hawke government set in 1989-90. But Mr Ruddock hinted at more growth ahead.

He reported a huge response to last year's policy shift overturning Australia's traditional insistence that foreign students return home after graduating. "This financial year we will easily meet the skills target, and use up all the contingency reserve," Mr Ruddock said.

"I'm not drawing implications about the 2002-03 program from this. But it may be argued that if the pipeline continues to expand, we may have to expand the skills program.

"Whether there should be any enlargement and additional places is something that should be looked at by the government, and we will be doing that in March and April."

Under the new policy, announced in last year's innovation statement, Australian-educated overseas students with skills in short supply and employer sponsorship can apply for permanent residency without leaving Australia. The policy is primarily aimed at students in the IT area, but covers all occupations on the skilled migration list.

Mr Ruddock said its influence has led to a surge of applications from students wanting to study in Australia. Immigration Department figures for the four months to October show a 30per cent leap in student visas granted offshore for study in Australia in 2002.

Student visas issued offshore soared from 19,996 in the same period in 2000 to 26,077 in 2001. The vast bulk of the growth was at university level, with huge increases in demand for undergraduate and post-graduate degrees from full-fee-paying students.

The biggest increase was among students from China, where visas rose by 2118 or 77 per cent from the year before. But there were also big rises in visas granted to students from Hong Kong, Singapore, the United States, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Korea, and even Brazil.

Mr Ruddock said economic studies showed that skilled migrants on average contribute a net $50,000 each to the budget surplus. Migrants under the family reunion program have a roughly neutral impact and refugees impose a heavy cost in the short term.

He ruled out increasing Australia's annual humanitarian intake - cut to 12,000 by the Howard government and then frozen at that level - on budgetary grounds. "If I went to my colleagues and sought approval to take in another 2000 refugees, they would say: 'That's another $60 million a year - what will you cut to pay for it?'"

Mr Ruddock also said:

The government is set to announce more reforms to ensure that new migrants spread out over Australia, rather than clustering in Sydney and Melbourne.
The flow of "unauthorised border arrivals" into Australia has now stopped, with boat owners no longer willing to take the risk of sailing here. He said 2000-3000 aspiring arrivals remain in Indonesia, but intelligence suggests the people smugglers are now looking to Europe, the west coast of the United States and New Zealand.

He has asked the CSIRO to investigate the environmental impact of increasing Australia's population, to help understand the costs associated with immigration.

Australia's population is on track to stabilise at around 25 million within 30 years, with an average immigration intake of 90,000 (slightly below current levels) balancing out population decline through women averaging fewer than two children.

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