Immigration Is Already Falling

July 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • Alison Rehn, Tory Shepherd and Sue Dunlevy
  • From: Herald Sun
  • July 26, 2010 12:01AM

Abbott to cut immigration by 130,000

TONY Abbott’s promise to slash immigration in half is under fire with forecasters claiming the nation’s immigration rate is already on track to fall to this level.

The Opposition Leader announced yesterday that a Coalition government would cut the annual net overseas migration from 300,000 to 170,000 places within three years, with foreign student numbers expected to be slashed.

But experts said the immigration level for this year had already fallen to 230,000 and was on track to drop to 170,000 by June next year, adding that the move would result in tens of thousands of job cuts.

Sustainable Population Minister Tony Burke said Mr Abbott’s announcement was nothing more than a sneaky political trick.

All Mr Abbott had done was add up the current projected cuts in net overseas migration – arising from existing policy – and called it his policy, he said.

The education export sector is Australia’s third largest earner, after coal and iron ore exports, at nearly $19 billion a year.

Australian National University demography expert Peter McDonald said it was not a good idea to shoot yourself in the foot by saying you’re not going to bring in overseas students.

Prof McDonald said Mr Abbott’s 300,000 migrant statistic was outdated, and that it was hard to predict migrant intakes from year to year.

“All we can see over the next five or 10 years is very strong demand for labour,” the director of the ANU’s Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute said.

Most employment growth in the next decade would come from migration.

Mr Abbott said a Coalition government would reduce the population growth rate to 1.4 per cent within its first term.

“What we are planning to do is to get our immigration levels to those which we believe are economically, environmentally and politically sustainable,” he said.

However, economic forecaster BIS Shrapnel said in May that net migration was expected to drop to 175,000 people in 2010-11 – a 1.5 per cent growth rate – and to 145,000 people in 2011-12 – a 1.3 per cent growth rate.

Prof McDonald said he didn’t believe migration would fall that dramatically.

“I doubt net overseas migration figures will fall that much,” he said.

The Business Council of Australia said Mr Abbott’s plan was disappointing.

“We would be concerned to see policies that reduce the attractiveness of Australia to foreign students who are undertaking genuine secondary or tertiary studies, given the importance of this industry to our overall economic wellbeing,” chief executive Katie Lahey said.

Universities Australia said dramatic cuts to student visas could cost tens of thousands of jobs, and likened any moves to reduce overseas students to a tax on tertiary education.

A severe drop in international student numbers would cost many Australians their jobs, chief executive Dr Glenn Withers said.

Greens leader Bob Brown said the Coalition’s plan to cut migration would unfairly target people wanting to reunite with their family.

“I suspect it’s going to hit the humanitarian intake, family programs,” he said. “If so, it’s not part of the social contract we want to see in Australia.”

The Federal Government has already acted to crack down on foreigners taking up “low-value” education courses, such as hairdressing, to seek permanent residency.

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