27 May 2012

Too much demagoguery clouds the immigration debate

Once again, discussion of immigration policy descends to the lowest (or most ill-informed) common denominator. Gina Reinhart gets 1700 foreign workers while Qantas lays off 500 Aussies! Something must be wrong with that!

There are plenty of valid grounds for criticising Australia's skilled migration policies. I have often referred to the negative impact of importing skilled labour for free rather than producing it here. The policy tweeks designed to "ensure" that employers maintain a commitment to training local workers are woefully inadequate, in my view. The long-term effect of creating a workforce in which the higher status, higher paid positions are held by foreigners while the local population is denied training opportunities worries me a lot. Heretically, I have even gone so far as to suggest we should look at importing low skilled domestic and hospitality workers rather than tradespeople and IT professionals, whom we should be training here.

But what we are hearing now from the likes of Paul Howes and others is uninformed demagoguery. Reinhart's 1700 construction workers are not taking the Qantas employees' jobs. The mining boom, providing the government has the guts to stand up to its bullying and tax it properly, is the best hope we have of finding the money to repair the damage done to our education and vocational training programs over the past two decades of neglect. Otherwise our young people may soon be packing off to China to look for work as kitchen hands.

1 comment:

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