Business Urges Evans Not To Cut Immigrant Intake

Business urges Evans not to cut immigration intake

Paige Taylor
November 04, 2008

IMMIGRATION Minister Chris Evans, who last month anticipated a cut in Australia's immigration intake as a result of the global economic downturn, has been urged by West Australian business leaders to resist any such move.

Senator Evans said he received “a much more upbeat analysis than perhaps I might have expected” at a meeting in Perth with representatives of BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Woodside, Chevron and the tourism, hospitality and health sectors.

He said he would consult business leaders in other states, and wait for the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook due in a few weeks, before forming a view on whether Australia's record high migrant intake should be reduced next year.

Senator Evans said immigration should be more targeted and he planned more employer-sponsored migrants who went straight into jobs.

Senator Evans told a Senate estimates committee on October 21 that he anticipated Australia's record high immigration would be reduced next year, but reiterated yesterday that no decision had been made.

He heard the pleas of business not to reduce immigration at a meeting convened by the West Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry a day after Rupert Murdoch said Australia would be strong only if it was open to immigration.

In the first of his Boyer Lecture series at the weekend, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation — which owns The Australian — said Australians “should not worry because other people wanted to come to our country”.

“The day to worry is when immigrants are no longer attracted to our shores,” Mr Murdoch said. “We should be a beacon to all.”

Senator Evans said he believed economic growth and the ability to attract labour internationally were linked. “(Mr Murdoch's) general point is right; there's no point reacting negatively, looking to close your borders as if that's some protection against global economic conditions,” he said. “Putting up false barriers hasn't worked in the past and it would be a retrograde step — to the extent Mr Murdoch is making that message I agree with him.”

Kevin Rudd also responded yesterday to Mr Murdoch's lecture, in which he said Australia had a 21st century economy and a 19th century education system that was leaving too many children behind.

“Mr Murdoch has made some comments … about education. Can I say this — he is right,” Mr Rudd said. “For a 21st century economy, Australia needs a 21st century education system. It means Australia must have an education revolution … unless we get this right we'll fall behind the rest of the world, long term.

“That is core business for us as a government. An education revolution is our response, investing in … the education system, the quality of that investment, but also making sure we are pulling the states and territories together in such common projects as a single national curriculum.”