Officials in Australia are currently finalising the nation’s future immigration policy with an announcement expected next month as a drop in numbers is now thought to be unlikely.
When the announcement comes it will have taken over a year for the Government to come to a decision about migration levels. That is the length of time it has had the comprehensive report Migrant Intake into Australia from the Productivity Commission.
The report was only made public last September but there has been no official response to its findings and recommendations. The report was particularly critical of both national and state Governments for allowing migration to be high but failing to invest in urban planning to accommodate arrivals.
In recent months there has been further criticism of a lack of new home building amid claims that people are being priced out of the housing market, particularly in cities like Sydney and Melbourne which have high immigration levels,
‘High rates of immigration put upward pressure on land and housing prices in Australia’s largest cities. Upward pressures are exacerbated by the persistent failure of successive state, territory and local governments to implement sound urban planning and zoning policies,’ the report said.
It also said that immigration is a major source of population growth that contributes to congestion in the major cities, raising the importance of sound planning and infrastructure investment and added that there has been a failure to invest.
But one of the problems could be that the report did not come up with an idea of what the ideal level of immigration should be in Australia and that is perhaps the problem that officials and politicians are continuing to wrestle with.
‘The commission is of the view that there is no single optimum for the level of immigration and population,’ the report said but it made a number of recommendations and said that if historic migration levels continue then Australia’s population is set to grow to around 40 million by 2060.
It suggests that all those arriving to live and work should be required to demonstrate a reasonable level of competence in English, the age limit for permanent residence should be lowered from 50 but with exceptions for highly skilled people, and the Skilled Occupation List should be the sole basis for determining requirements for skilled visas.
It also suggests that investment visas should be scrapped as the economic benefits of the significant and premium investor visa programmes are likely to be relatively modest so the argument for retaining them is ‘very weak’.
The report says visa fees are needed and are an important source of revenue but the system is unclear and lacking transparency and calls or a more structured charging system with discounts or exemptions for children.
‘While a positive rate of immigration is likely to deliver long term benefits to the Australian community, these benefits are highly dependent on having a system that attracts young and skilled immigrants, is responsive to economic, social and environmental conditions, and is informed by an improved policy process,’ the report concluded.