The Committee for Economic Development of Australia’s report says the increase would bring enormous economic benefits for the average person.
But it could do so only with better long-term planning around population growth, with policies focused on infrastructure provision, urban congestion and environmental degradation.
The Committee for Economic Development of Australia (Ceda) has released a report, “Migration: the economic debate”. The report made 17 recommendations to improve Australia’s migration program, saying changes are required to ensure it remains one of the best programs in the world.
Bureau of Statistics figures show net overseas migration in 2014-15 recorded an annual increase of 168,200 people.
But Ceda said that figure could rise to 400,000 by 2054, bringing beneficial economic consequences, if important changes were made to the program.
Stephen Martin, the chief executive of Ceda, said to The Guardian that Australia’s migration program had strong community support, but key aspects had the potential to undermine that support.
“Concern over migration both domestically and internationally has been increasing, driven by fear-mongering coupled with genuine community (albeit misplaced) concern about security,” Martin said.
“Public policy improvements are needed to ensure previous strong community support for migration is re-established, fair treatment for both temporary and permanent migrants, and that the country continues to reap the economic benefits from the skills that a balanced migration program brings.”
The report called for an overhaul of the 457 visa program for temporary workers, saying the current system leaves migrants open to exploitation.
It said it was no longer “inappropriate” to allow employers to say which occupations are in shortage, because that left a mismatch in supply and demand.
It recommended the ministerial advisory council on skilled migration be overhauled so its membership included equal representation from business and unions, and independent experts.
It said the council should also adopt an “evidence-based approach” to gathering information on which occupations should form part of the “occupational shortage list”, relying on input from stakeholders – through a formal and transparent submissions process – and on economic data.
It said the council’s deliberations and recommendations should then be made publicly available.
It also recommended that Australia’s working holiday visa program be capped, and that penalties for exploiting migrant workers be increased.
It supported a recent Productivity Commission recommendation to shift to a “universal points test” for permanent skilled migrants, and to tighten entry requirements relating to age, skills and English-language proficiency.
It said policymakers should also explore options to encourage settlement in regional areas, in particular Northern Australia, given the focus on driving investment and growth in that region.
The 17 recommendations include:
• Consider the impact of the current migration program on Melbourne and Sydney and subsequent future infrastructure and services requirements.
• Provide a more robust model for determining occupation shortages with respect of 457 visas.
• Shift to a universal points test for permanent skilled migrants and tighten entry requirements relating to age, skills and English-language proficiency.
• Review and cap the working holiday visa program and possibly introduce a purpose-built guest worker program for specific industries struggling to attract adequate low-skilled workers.
• Increase penalties for exploiting migrant workers.
• Improve settlement services and support, access to English language pro-grams and recognition of foreign qualifications.
Martin said with the right policies, Australia’s annual permanent migration intake could be increased significantly.