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Guest chris_mac

Big benefits from immigration, worth a read!

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Guest chris_mac

THE AUSTRALIAN

THE HEART OF THE NATION

Big benefits from immigration

Without more migrants our economy will underperform

JULIA Gillard understands we have a

labour shortage, which is why she

announced an expansion of the 457 visa

program yesterday, to supply more

temporary skilled migrants for the

Queensland reconstruction program.

Good but not good enough. Our labour

shortage is national, not regional, long

term not transitory, and it will damage

the whole economy if we are not

careful. This is exactly the reverse of

what the anti-immigration lobby

argues. We do not run a risk of migrants

taking jobs away from Australians.

Rather, as Access Economics argues,

we need more migrants to meet

existing and imminent demands for

labour. We are already underperforming

on exports, with the

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and

Resource Economics reporting

increased mineral and energy earnings

coming from higher prices rather than

larger volumes. While the value of coal

exports will rise by 32 per cent this year,

shipments will grow by only half that.

Given demand in Asia, we could be

doing better if we had the workers.

And we could have them if both sides

of politics had not connived to avoid a

rational debate over immigration

during the election. The conservatives

promised to cut immigration when they

thought it necessary, but were hazy on

the details. The Prime Minister assured

us she wanted a "sustainable"

population. They were both appealing

to a grab bag of popular prejudice on

migration. Some people fear foreigners

will take their jobs. Green zealots

believe humans are a blight on the

landscape. Others confuse immigration

and border protection and some think

our cities are too crowded, blaming

migrants whenever they are stuck in

traffic. What they all ignore is

immigrants are part of the solution to

our problems. More migrants,

especially ones with job-generating

skills, expand the economy, helping to

pay for improved infrastructure.

Demographer Peter McDonald

points out migrants contributed

strongly to the increase of one million

employed people between 2004 and

2008. Not only did they create demand

for goods and services themselves, their

presence increased overall output. It is

time the government and opposition

made this reality the basis for a debate

on immigration, rather than lazily

appealing to ill-informed fears. Kevin

Rudd spoke out for the manifest

benefits of a "big Australia" last year

and, while he did not make his case very

well, he had substance on his side.

back

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