A statement from civil society organisations on Australia’s migration program

The coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges facing our nation and world. As we navigate this challenge we have an opportunity to rethink many of our social and economic levers, including Australia’s migration program.

Migration has helped Australia evolve into a rich and successful modern nation. This success has been predominantly built on the back of a migration program that facilitates permanency and encourages residents to fully participate in our economy and society as citizens. Recently, however, the composition of Australia’s migration program has shifted to include increasing numbers of temporary visa holders, and it is this balance that is worthy of discussion.

We need to have a conversation about the lack of efficacy of a migration program that creates a reliance on a temporary, transient workforce.

In light of recent commentary, our political leaders are reminded that it is always prudent to avoid using language that is divisive.

Growth fuelled by migration will continue to be a key economic driver. The suggestion that migration creates competition for Australian jobs ignores the views of countless economic experts and the findings of Federal Government reports which demonstrate that migration boosts economic activity and creates jobs. Unfortunately, this fact is frequently overlooked, sometimes unintentionally, but more often for political expediency.

Instead we should expect bi-partisan support of a fair, equitable and transparent migration program.

Reform is needed.

Successful reform would deliver more streamlined pathways to permanent residency and improve social cohesion by placing greater value on permanency over temporary migration. Determining the right mix and level of permanent migration will benefit businesses seeking to attract highly-skilled workers and address skills shortages; and, facilitate partner and family reunion – building a stronger economy and stronger communities.

We are at a juncture in the debate on immigration policy. Either we can continue to use migrants as a political football, or we can create a framework for a sustainable, transparent, and fair immigration program.

The current parliamentary inquiries on regional migration and temporary migration present a clear opportunity to shift the conversation and realise our goal. We encourage the respective committees to progress this debate in a measured and responsible manner, facilitating the necessary participation from experts and representatives of business, unions, and community.

The challenge before us is significant, but it is not insurmountable. Australia needs an immigration program that delivers economic growth, protects all workers’ rights, and supports eligible migrants on their journey to become permanent residents. We need leadership that unites and calls out the best in all Australians if we are to achieve these common goals.

Co-signed by:

  • Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA)
  • Settlement Services International (SSI)
  • Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS)
  • Democracy in Colour
  • Settlement Council of Australia (SCoA)
  • National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA)
  • Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)
  • Anti-Poverty Week
  • Refugee Council of Australia

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