Future migration patterns from Greece to Australia could be affected if the findings of a new report published last week by the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Victoria’s Monash University were to influence future government policy. The report Immigration and the Resources Boom Mark 2 details how only half the numbers of migrants proposed by the Gillard government’s planned net migration intake are required to meet the projected second mining boom, and claims the government has set immigration targets without taking into account the infrastructural and social costs of Big Australia.

The current net overseas migration (NOM) target set by the government of 180,000 migrants a year will see Australia’s population grow to 36 million by 2050. The report challenges industry claims that unless NOM is kept at 180,000 or higher, there will not be enough skilled workers to meet employer requirements and sustain economic growth. The report argues that Australia requires a lower, better-targeted immigration program that would impact the two existing main streams: The first being “a predominantly professional flow to the big cities where immigrants are being employed in people-servicing industries such as health and welfare; the other being “a mass of people on temporary visas such as students and working holiday makers” working on a casual basis in the major cities. The report does agree with the government’s projections regarding the need for temporary workers to the start-up construction phase of the next phase of the resources boom, but disagrees with how effective the current visa system is for delivering sustainable outcomes. “The government encourages [457 temporary resident visa holders] to seek permanent residence visas. About half of those issues with 457 visas in recent years have obtained permanent residence visas after a few years. This policy must be changed if the temporary influx during the resources boom is not to become permanent, as occurred in West Germany in the aftermath of its guest worker program in the 1960s.”

The report points out the resources boom Mark 2 will lead to contraction of metropolitan-based industries such as manufacturing because of the appreciation of the Australian dollar, and that “it makes little sense to pursue a high immigration policy which promotes rapid metropolitan population growth.” Using Melbourne as a case study, the report concludes that, “if the current high-population-growth pathway to promoting economic growth continues, the fiscal dividend that the Commonwealth will reap from the resources boom will be squandered on city-building … such a dividend would be far better spent on training the domestic workforce and investing in knowledge-intensive industries.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Government is planning a major crackdown on illegal workers, saying up to 100,000 immigrants could be working in Australia without appropriate visas. The move follows the publishing of research by independent legal expert Stephen Howells, who has found strong evidence of a growing number of illegal workers and employers who find in the current legislation, little disincentive to hire illegal staff. The Government-commissioned report recommends employers are fined $10,000 for every illegal worker they hire, and that prosecuting such cases is made easier. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says the previous government failed to respond to similar recommendations made in 1999. “I hope that when I introduce this legislation into the House, given the rhetoric of the Opposition on matters of border protection and illegal immigration, they take a more constructive and positive approach and join with the Government in cracking down on illegal workers in Australia – people who have overstayed their visas, or are working without work rights.”