Departing Brits Make A Beeline For Australia

Departing Brits make a beeline for Australia

Lots of Brits are heading to Australia, many seeing it as similar to the way Britain was 20 years ago. EPA/JAMES ALCOCK

Apr 3, 2008, 14:21 GMT

Sydney – After Spain, Australia is tops with the 2,000 or so people who pack up and leave Britain every week.

Last year, 23,000 British people came to Australia for good, twice the number a decade ago.

Since the 1970s, Canberra has run a non-discriminatory immigration programme based on a points-scale for entry. There is no favouritism towards those from Britain or from any other English-speaking country.

There are pull and push factors that might help explain the popularity of starting afresh in the former colony.

Australia's businesses are booming, unemployment is at a 30-year low and, with the great economic powerhouses of China and India not far away, the wide brown land is now perceived as being close to the action rather than a long way from it.

The push factors include the notion that Australia is Britain the way it used to be.

Michael Palin, the travel documentary maker and former Monty Python comic, says he feels at home in Australia. 'It's like Britain was 20 years ago,' he said during a recent visit.

Australia is busy enticing Brits to set up home halfway around the world.

'There are skilled vacancies in all states and territories in more than 90 occupations,' Immigration Minister Chris Evans said at the start of an Australia Needs Skills campaign to lure nurses, plumbers, almost anyone with a skill.

The campaign plays to opinion polling which shows lots of British people are fed up with their lives. Screw Working in Staines, Sod London House Prices, Stuff London Traffic and Bugger it, I'm off to Adelaide are four of the campaign slogans.

Australian-born marketing executive Bill Muirhead, who designed the campaign, said it 'might appear we are being rude, but a lot of things in Britain aren't good.'

The South Australian state government has recruited British police officers, with the promise that they and their families will 'enjoy a Mediterranean-style climate, a relaxed blend of beach, country and city lifestyle and a first-class family environment.'

The normal six-month training course for officers has been halved, and the state government in Adelaide is hoping to hire 200 police officers from Britain.

The vacancies at home, the skill shortages, in part reflect the jobs that Australians themselves have left to seek new lives abroad. There are now 1 million Australian expatriates.

There are Australians who are fed up with their country too.

They leave, hoping perhaps to join a cavalcade of greats who include former World Bank boss James Wolfensohn, feminist academic Germaine Greer, comedian Barry Humphries, art critic Robert Hughes, novelist Peter Carey, country singer Keith Urban and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.