Short-Term Pitch on Immigration Disappointing

The Business Council of Australia’s Chief Executive Katie Lahey today expressed disappointment at the Coalition’s announcement that, if it wins office on 21 August, it would cut Australia’s immigration program.

“There is a temptation around election time to offer simple solutions, and pitch to perceived short-term self-interest rather than long-term national interest,” said Ms Lahey.

“Migration trend figures suggest the Coalition’s approach would have little net effect on the program, but it is nonetheless disappointing to see our political leaders engage in populist rhetoric.”

The BCA’s policy benchmarks for this election advocate for well-planned population growth that incorporates better planning for our cities and towns and better use of, and investment in, public infrastructure.

“Population growth, and immigration as a part of it, are an important and positive aspect of our nation’s history,” said Ms Lahey. “We need continued, sustainable growth to ensure our children inherit a strong economy and the opportunities that offers for fulfilling jobs, global engagement and well-funded services for our communities,” said Ms Lahey

“Growth will offset the effects of Australia’s ageing population and ensure that governments have the revenue they need to pay for health care, education, infrastructure and environmental initiatives.”

Ms Lahey said the Coalition’s commitment to maintaining the availability of 457 temporary visas, a focus on skilled migration and the involvement of the Productivity Commission in informing population policy were consistent with the BCA’s benchmarks.

“In assessing Mr Abbott’s proposal to increase scrutiny on education applicants, it is important that people know how much overseas students have contributed to the development of Australia’s $18 billion education export sector, now our fourth largest export.

‘We would be concerned to see policies that reduce the attractiveness of Australia to foreign students who are undertaking genuine secondary or tertiary studies, given the importance of this industry to our overall economic wellbeing.”