Subjects: Migration policy, South African farmers
We're joined now from Melbourne by the Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge. Good morning Alan.
Good morning Sam.
Now I wanted to have a chance last week, and we ran out of time, just to talk about how the immigration intake in Australia is run. What proportion is skilled, what proportion is family reunion, just so people understand.
Because I think a lot of the time people see that headline figure that there's a target or a cap of 190,000 - or it's not a target, it's a cap. But we don't actually understand how it works. So how do you decide who comes to Australia and the circumstances in which they come?
It is a good question Sam and it is actually quite a complex system, the immigration system.
We have 99 different visa classes and people come in under each one of those. In broad terms though we have a cap of 190,000 people each year who become a permanent resident.
About 70 per cent of those come through the skilled migration stream either because they have been sponsored by an employer or they have managed to get enough points under the points system to prove that they are a skilled person to come in.
And then the other 30 per cent is largely made up under the family reunion stream.
By and large, the majority of those tend to be an Australian who has married a citizen of another country and that enables them to be able to come in as a permanent resident.
Okay. So, we heard in recent weeks that we are on track to actually come well under that target, maybe 160, maybe 170,000. Why has that come about? Why is there less people coming in?
It is probably due to demand factors and also just us tightening some of the skills criteria as well.
Most of the skilled migration pathways are actually demand-driven. So that when an employer needs a person because they can't find an Australian, if they can satisfy the fact that they can't find that Aussie they can typically sponsor a person in.
In some years there's more people that they need than other years depending on the strength of the labour market.
We also made some changes, of course, to the 457 visa last year. That has a flow-on effect as well because if you come in on a short term basis often that will flow into permanent residency as well.
Okay, that's interesting because the reason for those reforms was concerns that some of those jobs weren't going to Australians and if they're no longer applying or asking for those migrants, I don't know, maybe it does say that they've been forced to give those jobs to Australians.
But we were also told that one of the arguments against significantly reducing the Immigration intake was the effect that would have on GDP and the economy. So if we are coming under 160 or 170, I don't know if you could tell us where we're on track to right now, does that mean that that's been a hit to the Australian economy?
Well as I said, it's largely demand driven so where businesses need skills for their business then they can sponsor people into the system.
Yes, we made some reforms to the 457s last year because we were concerned that that wasn't always achieving what it was set out to achieve. We reduced the number of eligible occupations on the skills list from 651 down to 461.
We also tightened some of the criteria such as insisting that there be better labour market testing as well.
Now we are very proud of our record actually, Sam, in terms of prioritising Australians for Australian jobs. But at the same time, when necessary, allowing businesses to sponsor people into the country.
Now the data supports that of course because last year there was only 70,000 457 visas issued. Whereas under the final year of the Shorten… Rudd-Gillard Government, there was 130,000 visas issued.
At the same time we have had record jobs growth but we have also had the welfare queues coming down.
So it has been a good trifecta for the Australian worker here with welfare queues coming down, record jobs growth and fewer people coming in on the 457 class.
The question I'm interested in though is that we've had the Treasurer Scott Morrison in the past argue that the reason why we shouldn't reduce the immigration intake.
And he made his comments in part in relation to some remarks by Tony Abbott, was because it would hit the economy, it would have an effect on GDP largely because these additional workers were mainly skilled, they'd be paying taxes and if they weren't here they wouldn't be paying those taxes.
Regardless of the fact that demand is what is driving, you say, the reduction in the intake - is there a figure in the Budget where we're going to see that the fact that we've brought in 160,000 or 170,000 rather than 190,000 actually has an effect on the Budget bottom line in terms of reduced taxes?
The cap is what is put into the Budget and the 190,000 figure is a cap, not a target. That's the important thing, Sam.
If we come in slightly under which we will this year, it is because some of the factors that we've talked about. Now the expectation based on what the Prime Minister and others have said is that the cap will remain at 190,000 for next year. But again, we may come in slightly under.
But wouldn't a higher cap generate, like, if we were up at 190 if you follow Treasurer Scott Morrison's argument, if I understand it, is that by coming under we lose revenues.
So wouldn't it be the case that if we budgeted for the cap that we are actually, if we're coming in under, that we are actually losing money on the Budget bottom line? So it's going to cost us more?
I know what you are saying…
Or revenue forgone I should say, revenue forgone.
As I said …
I'm not sure if I understand it properly, I'm just interested to know.
I mean basically as I was explaining under the skills stream… the family reunion stream is nearly always maxed out as you can imagine. We have got enormous demand of people we want to sponsor a loved one from overseas into Australia.
The skilled migration stream is largely demand driven. So from year to year it will be up and down slightly.
What we are not going to do is just bring in tens of thousands of people who then go on to the welfare system. That doesn't contribute to the economy.
If they come in as they do under our skilled migration stream and work, then of course they are contributing to the economy, they are paying taxes, they are adding to the fabric of Australia. So they're not inconsistent those propositions.
It is demands driven. If the businesses are growing, they need more people, they can't get Aussies, then of course there will be greater requirements for people to come in under the skilled migration stream.
All right now just in relation to the South African farmers, we've seen more discussion of this week; Christian Porter breaking his paternity leave.
I'm sure that his wife may have had some views of that, to do a little bit of a commentary on this issue saying that he would like to see more South African farmers here the better.
He's got a good community of South African expats in his electorate. Has there been any progress or movement in those applications that you said that you've received?
Yes, we have received a great many applications from South Africans. I don't know what their occupations are.
They will be considered and assessed according to the humanitarian criteria which in essence is whether or not they have been suffering persecution. They will be considered alongside other applicants as well. But of course a great many South Africans coming through the skilled migration program and the family reunion program as well and do make a fantastic contribution.
No worries. Well we'll have to leave it there but one word answer: how many applications have you received in the humanitarian visas?
I don't know that exact figure today in terms of what it's up to.
All right, no worries. Thanks a lot for your time today. Alan Tudge the Citizenship Minister. We appreciate it.