Asia Minute: Australia’s Immigration Politics

Mar 21, 2019

Sydney skyline at dusk
Credit Photo by DAVID ILIFF / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Immigration remains a political issue in the United States, and that trend has spread elsewhere in the world. In Australia, the government announced some immigration policy changes this week.

Australia is cutting the number of immigrants it accepts each year by nearly 15-percent. The number of permanent immigrants will drop to 160,000 — down from the current level of 190,000.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who faces an election in May, also took steps to restrict immigration to Australia’s largest cities — a hot political topic. A survey in September found 63-percent of Sydney residents support restrictions on immigration to their city.

Morrison plans to use a skilled visa program to curtail new residents moving from overseas to the country’s current population centers.

Up to 23,000 of the new immigrants would arrive under a visa program for skilled workers. They could gain permanent residency in the country after three years, but only if they live outside Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and the Gold Coast.

Several politicians in Morrison’s party were looking for even tighter restrictions while a number of business lobbyists support the new approach on immigration.

Reuters quoted the head of the Australian Business Council as saying “While Australians in our major cities are frustrated by congestion, those in our regions have told us they need more people, skills, jobs and investment.”

Government figures show more than 28-percent of Australia’s population was born overseas.