Australia May Cut Immigration Amid Financial Crisis : Minister

Australia may cut immigration amid financial crisis: minister

Oct 26, 2008

SYDNEY (AFP) Australia may cut the flow of immigrants into the nation if unemployment rises in the face of the global financial crisis, a cabinet minister said Sunday.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the government would wait until the release in November of mid-year financial data before deciding on whether to reduce numbers.

“Clearly if the demand for labour comes off you'd adjust the migration programme accordingly,” he told Nine Network television.

“We can turn the taps off if we need to.

“But there are still industries with strong demand for labour and we'll just have to talk to industry and make a judgment about what the appropriate level will be once we've got a bit better idea of what's happening in the economy .”

Around 190,300 immigrants are projected to arrive in Australia in 2008/09, with skilled workers accounting for most places as the country battles chronic labour shortages in some sectors.

Evans said the current programme was designed when Australia's forecast was for economic growth, high inflation and a skills crisis.

“If those parameters are changing, the government will take a sober look at those issues and make a decision when we have got proper information,” he said.

Evans said any decision to cut the intake would be a complex process given the contributions new arrivals made to the economy.

“We know that they consume, they buy property, and they're a net positive to the budget,” he said.

“And a lot of the skills that are coming in at the moment are in the mining sector, which has allowed us to increase our exports.”

Evans said the global financial crisis had already boosted interest in immigration to Australia from countries experiencing an economic downturn such as Britain and New Zealand.

“I think the downturn in Great Britain over the last year or two has actually seen a renewed interest from Great Britain in people looking to migrate either temporarily or permanently,” he said.