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Business has warned that West Australians could be priced out of the resources boom and interest rates pushed even higher if the Federal Opposition follows through with a promise to slash the number of immigrants.

WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist John Nicolaou said the flagged cut would mean the abandonment of major developments by companies unable to find the workers they need to exploit the State’s natural resources.

He was backed by Trade Minister Simon Crean who said cutting immigration now would devastate economies like that of WA and Queensland which were crying out for workers.

The Opposition has signalled cutting the net immigration intake which, when temporary workers and students are taken into account, edged down to 297,000 in the three months to the end of September.

Shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison said forecasts of Australia’s population reaching 36 million by 2050 proved immigration under the Rudd Government was “out of control”.

He said a coalition government would bring immigration levels back to a “sustainable level”.

But Mr Nicolaou said with WA needing 400,000 people over the coming decade to deal with the resources boom, cutting immigration levels could prove economically disastrous to the State.

He said major resource companies would go overseas if they could not get the labour they needed in Australia.

Those that did continue work in WA would have to pay higher wages for their staff, which would then push up costs for the rest of the community.

“I think it’s very short-sighted if they’re looking at cutting immigration, because it’s going to push up costs for everyone through wages going up,” he said.

“We lost investment in the last boom because there were insufficient workers, and we run the risk of doing that again.”

Professor Peter Mc Donald of the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute also warned that trying to cap immigration levels would have major economic ramifications for people already living in Australia. The Reserve Bank was already lifting interest rates to dampen demand.

“You’re just going to push up wages pressures and that will feed into higher interest rates,” he said.

Mr Crean said the resource States would be disadvantaged if the number of workers was artificially restricted.

“Mining companies generally are saying one of the biggest challenges they face … is the availability of skilled labour,” he said. “People calling for cuts to immigration programs ought to understand how the economy is functioning.” 

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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AUSTRALIA has delivered a blunt message to India that it is selling education, not visas, even as the Rudd government deploys its most senior ministers to patch up relations damaged over a series of Indian student assaults.

Trade Minister Simon Crean, whose visit to India this week overlaps that of Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, outlined to the Confederation of Indian Industry yesterday federal government measures to crack down on shonky education and training providers in Australia.

But he said the crackdown could be successful only if similar action were taken in India to close down shonky education and immigration agents running scams to secure permanent Australian residency through student visas.

“Let’s be clear, we are offering a quality education in a safe environment,” Mr Crean said yesterday. “The quality of our education is what we are promoting, not the visa attached to it.

“For this to succeed, we also need the co-operation of the Indian government. The fact that politicians in both countries have been forced to focus on the issue improves the odds of coming up with a better system.”

Ms Gillard is understood to have delivered a similar message during meetings with Indian Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal and, late on Tuesday night, with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, where greater engagement between the two countries on defence, energy and climate change were also discussed.

Mr Crean denied Australia’s international education industry needed to be remarketed in India, despite the fact it is widely seen — and in some areas promoted — as a pathway to permanent residency.

But he conceded better co-operation between Australian government agencies was also needed to help stem student visa abuses.

What the student issue has done is shed a light on the importance of interaction between Austrade, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and those that market our services in the Department of Education, Employment and Work Relations in the protection of our brand,” he said yesterday.

In just eight days, India will have hosted three of Australia’s most senior politicians, Mr Crean, Ms Gillard and Wayne Swan.

By the end of the year, a total of eight Australian ministers will have graced Indian soil.

The ministerial offensive is aimed at patching bilateral relations, damaged by a recent series of attacks on Indian students in Australia, as well as building trade relations with the emerging Asian superpower.

Mr Crean, who is in India for a two-day meeting of G20 trade ministers ahead of the next Doha round of WTO talks in Pittsburgh later this month, said Australia’s trade relationship with India had historically been “underdone”.

The ministerial visits — which will culminate in a tour by Kevin Rudd later this year — were designed to correct that.

“We understand the fundamental importance of India to our future, just as we do China and the rest of Asia. This is going to be the fastest-growing region in the world for the next couple of decades, it is the place to be,” he said. “Australia fortunately positioned itself for that a couple of decades ago but we have to renew the effort.

“Obviously, if there is a hiccup in the relationship, as there has been here over student safety, of course we have to address it. Visits here are an important part of that.”

Canberra hopes that a successful culmination of the Doha talks — aimed at reducing international trade barriers — will help accelerate free trade agreement negotiations between Australia and India, still at the feasibility stage.

It was also concentrating on building trade ties in infrastructure and energy security areas, with particular focus on investments in gas and coal.

Mr Crean denied that Australia’s refusal to sell uranium to India — a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — would hurt the progress of the talks, despite Mr Singh again raising the issue during his meeting with Ms Gillard.

Source  :  The Australian

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