27/04/2004 - 22:00

Immigration makes good business sense

27/04/2004 - 22:00


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I DON’T mean to bore regular readers with an endless repetition of my views on a select group of topics but I have to write a brief note to reiterate a point I have made several times about immigration.

I DON’T mean to bore regular readers with an endless repetition of my views on a select group of topics but I have to write a brief note to reiterate a point I have made several times about immigration.

I support further immigration and a bigger population, which is a position I gather the Business Council of Australia has taken.

The way I see it, more people will allow Australia to stand on its own two feet more often. We’ll have better clout in trade negotiations with other nations, especially our neighbours, because we’d be less of a quarry and more of a market. We would also be a bigger market for our own goods, which would provide a better opportunity for local manufacturers.

Well-weighted immigration increases could be used to dampen the impact of the rising ageing population and decreasing regional population.

From a security point of view, we’d have bigger clout, be seen to be using our continent better and, importantly, could more easily fund our defence.

The big anti-immigration arguments don’t hold water for me.

Immigrants don’t take jobs, they create them or do work Australians don’t want.

Immigrants won’t wreck our culture, unless we drop the ball ourselves. If we accept a wide range of people and make sure they are spread around the country there is no reason why Australia can’t be a net beneficiary of an increased population.

Immigration doesn’t have to lead to environmental degradation.

On this latter point, I have to say if there is one argument in this whole debate that I have sympathy for it’s the question of what size population our land can sustain.

Part of that problem is solved when you look at rural Australia, which already produces more food than our population needs. In addition, many rural towns have suffered population loss, so restocking these with immigrants shouldn’t impose a greater cost on the environment than previous numbers.

In the cities and coastal areas, the issue is harder to defend as these population centres sprawl.

That would take good government planning to make sure higher density urban areas and coastal retreats, which Australians are favouring in their droves, use the scales of economy available to neutralise the impact of more people.

Government sends wrong message

MY brother-in-law recently worked on an oil rig in Chinese waters.

As part of the fly-in-fly-out shift, he spent time in China and was assisted by a 30-something local woman who made sure all the bureaucratic needs of the country were sorted out and generally made sure his stay was comfortable.

She was, by all accounts, well off, well-educated, drove a nice car, spoke good English and had a bit of spare cash to fuel a growing desire for international travel to Australia, where a cousin lived.

Sounds like a perfect catch from all that money we pour into promoting our image to tourists overseas.

The problem was, she told my brother-in-law, she could not get a visa to visit Australia.

From what I am hearing she is not alone.

The issue came up again last week when Fu Ying, the Chinese Ambassador to Australia, spoke at a WA Business News Meet the Ambassadors function. It was raised by Des Williams, president of the Australia China Business Council in his closing remarks.

Australia sits comfortably (or is that uncomfortably?) close to the two most populated countries in the world, India and China.

People from those countries desperately want to come here (both for travel and private medical reasons) and we won’t let them.

It is a ridiculous situation that is hurting the tourism and medical industries.

More importantly, perhaps, we want the increasingly rich people from these countries (and their well-populated neighbours) to buy our goods. One of the best ways to do that is to promote this place. Tourism, and the word-of-mouth feedback it creates, is a powerful (and profitable) way to achieve that.

We will never compete with the cultural bombardment achieved by the US through Hollywood, we have to be cleverer than that. It’s time our authorities devised a better process to ensure that genuine travellers can get here without unnecessary barriers to entry.

Perhaps there is a role for privatisation?

Tourism and medical groups seeking to bring in travellers from high-risk countries could be licensed to operate with significant sums put up as collateral.

Those that fail to manage their visitors – not just in the duration of stay but activity as well – should suffer penalties.

This is how we regulated many activities, such as financial services, why not adapt it to immigration for the good of us all?





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