Abbott’s toxic immigration policy

ScreenHunter_26 Oct. 29 10.01

By Leith van Onselen

Business Spectator’s Robb Burgess has posted a thought provoking article questioning the motivations behind the Abbott Government’s so-called skilled migration program, which appears to have thrown-out checks and balances and is no longer based on economic need.

First, Burgess questions why the independent Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) – the body set-up the the former Gillard Government to evaluate what skills Australia has, what we should import and how to develop the necessary skills locally – is being disbanded by the Abbott Government:

Was it just a case of reducing the number of government agencies, or was the intention to stop the independent Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency disturbing a delicate balance in the Australian economy?..

Now that AWPA is gone… there is likely to be less scrutiny of the categories of jobs added to the government’s ‘skilled occupations list’ that can be used to apply for a visa to migrate to Australia…

This all feeds into a very awkward problem for the government… with hidden unemployment being particularly bad among the young…

But… the Department of Immigration and Border Protection plans to keep overseas net migration pretty constant in the years ahead…[and]…the skilled migration component of the roughly 220,000 people moving to Australia each year will also stay roughly constant.

…there are growing concerns that skilled migrants are taking jobs well below their skill level and therefore displacing young Australians who want jobs…

Having AWPA pumping out independent reports would be like handing out ammunition to Clive Palmer, the independents, or even Labor and the Greens – if, that is, they chose to use them.

Burgess’ concerns are warranted. If the skilled migration program was genuinely about the economy, it would be determined based on rigorous analysis of need, and would balance the benefits to business against the costs to unemployed and underemployed Australians.

Yet, to date, we have seen little evidence that the Abbott Government is taking such an approach. Already, it has ignored the advice of the AWPA and the Department of Employment- which both argued that Australia has a surplus of accountants, with graduates facing poor employment prospects – and has instead chosen to keep accountants on a list of in-demand occupations for skilled migrants, meaning they are permitted to apply for a permanent visa into Australia without a sponsor.

In doing so, the Abbott Government has placed the interests of universities, which derive income from international accounting students, and the major accounting bodies, which charge foreign accountants fees for membership and ­evaluating qualifications for migration, ahead of locals trying to get a job.

To add insult to injury, the Abbott Government is also undertaking a review of 457 visas, which appears as if it would reopen a loophole that would allow employers to hire an unlimited number of foreign workers under a temporary working visa, potentially opening the system to widespread rorting.

The loosening of 457 visa requirements comes despite the federal Department of Employment’s labour shortages report, released in February, claiming that “skill shortages continued to abate” and that employers in 2013 “generally filled their vacancies with ease and had large fields of applicants from whom to choose”. It also goes against warnings from the Department that Australia’s 457 visa program has created a continued reliance on foreign workers rather than developing the required skills locally.

There are likely several reasons why the Abbott Government has chosen to go against independent advice and loosen Australia’s migration requirements.

One possible explanation is that the Coalition wishes to undermine local workers’ pay and conditions, while at the same time keeping the throttle on population growth and capital’s share of profits (benefiting its big business mates).

The other, as noted by Burgess, is to place upward pressure on Australian house prices:

…we need a couple of hundred thousand migrants every year to stop the out-of-control housing market crashing to earth…

There are tens of thousands of new apartments about to be completed in Melbourne and Sydney in particular and strong migration numbers will help keep a floor under that market.

Either way, such an approach is hardly a recipe for social cohesion, and would likely leave a large pool of unemployed Australians and Australians locked-out of home ownership:

…bringing in such large numbers when work is in short supply will leave many younger, or even older jobless Australians angry.

…before long many Australian families will be asking what we’re trying to achieve – growing GDP and growing house prices, or growing jobs, homes and a future for young Australians.

Australia’s immigration system should not systematically make it easier to import labour from offshore rather than training local workers. Such an approach will only lead to a large pool of unemployed, and deprive our youth of employment opportunities, as well as deny younger Australians home ownership.

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Unconventional Economist
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  1. Ultimately this is about a Big Australia push and all means necessary are being utilised to get us there. There is no debate, there is not step back to take a breath and consider where we are going. It seems the one goal is to destroy the Australia of old, with all sides of politics complicit in the destruction of.

    Would things be any different if Rudd or Shorten were our leader now? No, it would be full steam ahead with the false pretence of caring.

    • Rudd may have been worse, he loved the big Australia idea, and held about 20 million in a property port folio.

      The Uni’s are visa factories, but they are also incredibly weak when it come to computer security. What would happen if every script kiddy (basic skills only required here) just attacked universities, you would be able to knock some of the big ones off line within hours.

      Just thinking out side the box here.

      It’s not as if you can express your anger towards foreigners in Australia anymore as the rich and wealthy along with government have made that illegal. They call it a hate crime. I call it a desperate cry from the lower ranks that are just trying to make it in this world and get to work without been over crowded on public transport 🙂

    • migtronixMEMBER

      Well that false pretence might have none the less yielded useful data / programmes that could be leveraged down the road.

      With the neo-cons it’s stop all government oversight and stop giving a f#ck, that’s an exceptionally bad outcome.

    • So no change. I wonder what will happen when 457 infests the FIRE industry as they have for IT (and other industries).

      • The FIRE industry are already using 457 visas, that’s if they haven’t already moved their back office staff to Asia already.

      • Well REs are effectively bypassing Aussies to chase foreign Asian money. I am sure Asian developers looking to chasing profit from building property will want to import their own cheap labour under 457 visas to build their apartment buildings.

  2. The Ponzi that is immigration will not stop until there is a grass roots push to stop it as this level.

    On a slightly related note, my understanding was that accountants were capped at 5000~ which is an improvement I guess.

    • General Disarray

      Look at the date on that .pdf and consider what has happened politically since.

      • From the document

        ‘This publication takes into account policies announced as at early May 2014, including relevant changes announced in the May 2014 Commonwealth Budget.’

      • General Disarray

        If they’ve abolished the oversight that tells you more than any projections will. It looks like decisions will be made not on economic need but political ideology.

  3. from 06 to 12 , there are around 50K accountants immigrants…and from 00 to 13, the total number might be up to 100k…just wonder how many companies/business added to the economy…
    There is no surprise that the market is flooded with accountants..
    If the got could not create more opportunity for young Australia, it means there is no future for OZ..

    There should be a balance of immigrant intake and job creation.

    • all accountants will be out of job in a decade anyway (replaced with software that already exists)

      • if not out of job in a decade away, most of new accountant immigrants are joining into the dole team now..

      • So immigrant accountants are just temporary workers for a couple of years until software solution is finalised?

        That sounds like a strangely rational reason to have immi accountants, who can return home when the robots take over, although the logic is spoiled by the existing local accountants.

  4. Is it the alternative to the US’s Mexicans or the East Europeans. A docile indentured workforce to break the picket even before it happens? It may very well end up looking like a depression where everyone is happy with whatever puts bread on the table. How many families are already living hand to mouth with no savings or security to speak of?

  5. arescarti42MEMBER

    Surely ramping up skilled migration in a faltering economy will just push unemployment higher.

    At what point do the masses make the connection, and demand en masse that the borders be closed?

    • Check out the link above – the forecast for skilled migrants

      2014, 49,000
      2018, 49,700

      Not exactly devastating. This is a Burgess Beatup where he doesn’t let facts get in the way of a bit of Abbott fear and loathing.

      • The immigration department report in your link came out in March,

        The AWPA did not cease operations until the end of the financial year, and it seems its closure was leaked in early April.
        The government’s review of 457 visas was announced in mid-March,

        The effects of those measures are therefore not included in the immigration department report. It seems at least plausible that these measures are there specifically to lessen the decrease in immigration the report forecasts.

      • Irrelevant I suggest. The former government ignored the skilled migrant mix recommended by the Department of Employment – where was Burgess then?

        This is sensible disbanding of superfluous agencies promised prior to the election. Existing Departments should be well positioned to provide relevant advice as they have done in the past.

        Best to ignore Burgess and his speculations.

      • Strange Economics

        And all the skilled occupations are already flooded and have youth unemployment. e.g. accountants, IT, nursing, construction workers.

        Probably should be zero skilled immigrants this year and reevaluate next year.

        Or only bring 457s for bank CEOs and construction CEOs, real estate managers, super fund workers, public servants…..

  6. Wages are already falling, and LNP policies are winding back higher education. Strong wage growth in developing nations means we will achieve wage parity in a couple of decades – when that happens, how on earth will we attract skilled workers?

  7. We are only two years away from the federal election.

    That gives the young people of this country time to organise their own party.

    As a 63 year old worried about our children and grand children, I think there are plenty of older voters out there looking for something better than the Liberal and Labor parties.

    Surely there are some energetic people in their 20s and 30s willing to give it a go… hopefully with a little more grey matter than the new recruits in the Senate.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      There are kids out there trying. The big parties know this. Why do you think there is such a big campaign to denigrate our youngsters? The two parties, especially the Libs, are trying their best to undermine the youngsters’ credibility.

      We end up with our smartest either joining one of the traditional parties and losing their soul, or just give up or leave the country.

      • Why do you think there is such a big campaign to denigrate our youngsters? The two parties, especially the Libs, are trying their best to undermine the youngsters’ credibility.

        Not to mention controlling parties at State and Federal levels doing their darndest to increase the requirements you need to satisfy to get on a ballot.

  8. johnathonbbbrown

    THINK about this white man. Our days are numbered. 300k+ Asians immigrating to Oz every year! 60% of new born babies here of Asian descent. These figures come from MB data. The other day I rang TPG and got an operator in the Phillipines. He gleefully told me his wife had just got a job (457 visa?) in Oz. I wrote to the PM complaining, and got a letter from Ali somebody- no bloody joke. We are fucked. Make sure you don’t complain though white man, you non thinking, gutless, dumb bastards.

  9. I for one would welcome a mass influx of cheap 457 labout for the following:
    – dentists
    – plumbers/electricians
    – lawyers
    – physios

    • +1. There’s a lot of overpaid people.

      “Journos” too.

      I’m sick of seeing predominantly white faces in the “profession” looking down on me gutlessly parroting the chardy or neo liberal line.

      I want more Sandeeps and Minhs doing it.

      • yea – we need more low quality reporters to man the twitter feeds and social media updates.

  10. The independent Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) was probably abandoned because it’s reports are not convenient, and contrary to what they want. Instead of questioning our mass immigration, and productivity, they just shoot the messengers!
    Already the 2006 Productivity Commission report on ongoing immigration was wary, and cautious about the benefits. It’s been ignored too! No doubt that productivity is on a downward spiral, with unemployment, unaffordable housing, homelessness, high costs of training/education, traffic gridlocks and the $700 billion in infrastructure deficit! It’s all about caving into to powerful and wealthy lobby groups, such as housing and property development.

  11. Big Australia idea will die as soon as unemployment goes up by a few %. Ordinary people will turn into anti-immigration nationalists (even people who immigrated just few years ago) and politicians will turn into populist fascists.

    Existing immigrants will be blamed for everything, including housing bubble burst, mining burst, …. even for Big Australia policy

    • +1

      Harry Dent regularly makes mention of this phenomenon in his work. We aren’t alone in experiencing this.

    • I don’t agree. Australians have been turned into a bunch of absolute wimps thanks to decades of relentless PC.

      You can’t even say “brown people” or not believe someone had an Aboriginal friend without being accused of being Hitler by some nutjob like Mig. 😀

      Better take care so you don’t end up in the Favelas.

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      Existing immigrants will be blamed for everything, including housing bubble burst, mining burst, …. even for Big Australia policy

      The last ten years suggests that rage can and will be fairly easily focused onto a single target of “illegal immigrants”, rendering the real problem invisible.

      • So extra measures against asylum seekers, possibly contradicting international and apparently Australian law are incredibly clever and calculated rather than totally deranged?

        I was really hoping it was the latter.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        So extra measures against asylum seekers, possibly contradicting international and apparently Australian law are incredibly clever and calculated rather than totally deranged?

        Government policy toward asylum seekers has been like that since Howard, so it seems to be a bit too long to just write off as “deranged”.

      • Never thought it was anything other than skilled and deceitful politics from JWH – he has even given interviews since leaving office saying so. But with TA and some of the current LNP front bench, deranged seemed a highly plausible option.

      • Uranium GeoMEMBER

        The boat people are nothing but pawns for both major parties to beat their chest about policy and is a welcome distraction for them to add their own KPIs as a measure of their in/effectiveness.

      • A “deranged” policy for a deranged people. All that’s needed is a tiny little blow off valve for our intrinsic racism and deference for the more protectionist past so that we can still associate a good portion of ourselves with that redneck good old boy image.

        Australians loathe each other now and love f#cking each other over. One of the main reasons why the property bubble flourished so easily. Boomers even hate their own kids ffs.

        Australians have become comfortably scum.

  12. ceteris paribus

    Just how much policy is made by stealth away from the sight of citizens? If you can’t bring in Workchoices, why not introduce it by the back door with 457s and starving the unemployed into accepting anything that is asked of them?

    Abbott is really not fooling around. It is all out war on labour on behalf of capital. Frankly, I am surprised by Abbott’s obsession with money and the interests of big business. I knew he was always obsessed with power over people and a strange form of social climbing with the “right” crowd.

    But I never suspected he would be so full-on capitalist.

  13. THIS -> “One possible explanation is that the Coalition wishes to undermine local workers’ pay and conditions, while at the same time keeping the throttle on population growth and capital’s share of profits (benefiting its big business mates).”

    There’s the answer right there.

    As much as I eschew tin foil hate brigade stuff, with Shabbot, anything is possible. They’re all a bunch of Joffreys.

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      As much as I eschew tin foil hate brigade stuff, with Shabbot, anything is possible. They’re all a bunch of Joffreys.

      It’s been happening for the last 15-20 years, with those goals all but explicitly stated, so you probably don’t need to worry about “conspiracies”.

  14. Skilled immigration is a big winner for Australia. People on 457s pay tax but can’t vote, they don’t get Medicare (unless they’re from the UK, reciprocal), they’re essentially indentured workers but they’ve been trained by another country’s taxpayers. It’s a win, win for Australia – a flexible, high-spending, disenfranchised constituency. Why would you mess with that? I agree that the property markets in the big cities need big numbers of skilled immigrants to keep the prices up.
    Private school fees are also propped up by this influx.

    • Feed a man fish, he eats for a day. Teach him to fish, he eats for a lifetime.

      The culture of importing skills rather than nurturing and developing the young may be ok for today, but when things turn south we will be further ‘in the shit’.

      • It’s not an either or situation. This govt seems to be cutting third level loose as it believes that it will get the skills it needs from immigration. But other countries want those skills too. Australia may not have so much choice in the future. I know of many young skilled migrants who are leaving Oz this year as they think it’s too hard to get ahead here now. Too expensive.

      • Given Australia’s downward wage trend, it does kind of seem our opportunity to attract the most skilled people around the world will close relatively quickly, on that at least we can agree.

        At the same time, by removing the oversight we are tending towards a quantity over quality approach to skilled immigration.

    • Until you find the 457s littered in your workplace , with local hires made redundant in the meantime. After a year or two some of the 457s are sent back to their offshore office with the highly skilled local knowledge they gained (happened twice in 2 companies I’ve worked for). Outsourcing enabled via the highly specific local knowledge gained via Temporary 457/467 visas.

      Then the couple of 457s that stay on become PRs after 2 years, and get all our benefits. Meanwhile your young IT graduate is suffering 30% unemployment in a supposed “growth industry of the future”, and your originally employed highly skilled professional who was made redundant is also now unemployed. (The last architect I worked with had to shift to Canberra last year , couldnt find anything locally even though his family was here in VIC)

      Or the case where a 457 who has been working in India with 3 years IT experience is brought onto a local grad program as a graduate (again something I saw thru my own personal experience).

      Yep. Its a winner for all.

      • Reminds me of an outsourcing effort at a company I worked for once.

        Step 1: Attempt to outsource manufacturing of a particular product to O/S factory.

        Step 2: Sack O/S factory due to quality problems, high customer rejection rate.

        Step 3: Lose entire order book of particular product to sacked O/S factory after customer ‘adjusts’ spec.

      • “All our benefits”? Pul-lease. It costs thousands of dollars to get Australian PR. Important not to blame people who go through all the bureaucratic and expensive processes of getting a visa here, leave their family and friends and bring their education and experience with them to donate to this country. I think your beef is with unscrupulous Australian employers who prefer to have workers that they can hire and fire at will rather than train and nurture locals.