Shell Australia Chief Calls for More Immigration

by Ray Clancy on August 6, 2016

in Australia Immigration

When it comes to immigration in Australia the headlines often mention that it is too high, but now a leading industry chief has actually called for higher levels.

Shell Australia chairman Andrew Smith says business leaders should stand up and argue for greater levels of immigration to help bolster population growth in the country to boost the economy. He joins a group of individuals who are advocating more immigration as a way of helping the economy.

Highest priority to be given to visa applications from those sponsored under RMS

Highest priority to be given to visa applications from those sponsored under RMS

While Australia did not see as great a decline as other countries during the global economic downturn, it is not growing as much as expected.

‘Often hysterical debate has surrounded Australian immigration in the new millennium. There has been a failure of industry to advocate for an immigration program that will provide economic stimulus to a sluggish economy,’ he said in a speech at Melbourne Mining Club.

He mentioned the perennial problem which is attracting immigrants to areas in Australia – such as the north – where they are most needed. Many tend to want to live and work in the big cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, but skilled labour shortages are often in less well-known regions in the resources, oil and gas industries.

‘Industry leaders need to both advocate for a balanced mix of skilled and humanitarian migration, then back up our advocacy with meaningful decisions that contribute to legacy. It is only through population growth that economic diversity will be delivered, unlocking the potential of Australia’s north,’ he told the audience.

Smith cited the immigration legacy of Australian gold rush towns like Bendigo, saying the challenge was to realise the same potential in towns like Broome and Gladstone.

‘Today Australia’s economic growth is being driven by Melbourne and Sydney with their diverse economies. These two cities are home to more than half of the nation’s population growth, a trend that will catapult both cities to in excess of 8.5-million residents by 2060,’ he said.

‘But as we strive for a more prosperous Australia, we must increase immigration levels and grow population in other areas of the nation. We must look to the economic potential of our regions and our regional centres. And this is where the mining and petroleum sectors can have a great contribution. As a leader in the resource sector, it is the ability of our industry to make a contribution outside the capitals that excites me most.’

Smith believes investment in Gladstone, Broome and similar towns will create a legacy for future generations.

‘This will only happen when we grow the population with a mix of internal and international migration to the regions, creating opportunities for new Australians to find well paid jobs,’ he said.

Smith also pointed out the obvious advantages for investors in regional cities, such as access to a well-educated local workforce to make running companies both simpler and more profitable.

‘Local communities will benefit from a critical mass in population that will make investment in schools and hospitals irresistible for government. And sustainable population growth with its associated economic stimulus will help to silence the vocal critics of our industry,’ he explained.

‘But if we are ever see the benefits of population growth in our regions, we must first transcend the hysterical tone that now shrouds meaningful debate on immigration. Industry leaders […] need to both advocate for a balanced mix of skilled and humanitarian migration, then back up our advocacy with meaningful decisions that contribute to legacy,’ he told the audience.

‘These comments are not a call for more or less 457 visa intakes. Specialised tasks in highly technical sectors like ours will always require the temporary importation of specific skills. We have some the planet’s most desirable mineral deposits but we will only unlock this potential, and its economic dividend, if we are able bypass populist protectionist voices on immigration policy, and grow our population,’ he added.

Smith concluded by saying the current time’s greatest need is to host prosperous regional centres of the next century.

‘Just as Bendigo’s growth was fuelled by an influx of Asian immigration in the 1850s, or nearby Geelong’s growth was fuelled by Italian and Greek migration in the 1950s, the north of our nation must welcome new Australians.’

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