OZ Life

OZ Life
Immigration News

Immigration demonstrates commitment to IT careers
Australian migration program changes in 2009
No change expected to Australia's record high migrant intake
Australia and Canada work together on business visas
Australia to revise citizenship test
Australia to raise salary for migrant workers
Temporary skilled migration scheme popular
457 visa worker numbers up 27%
Business says 457 visa changes won't resolve labour shortage
SA Govt seeks Filipino workers
Immigration records to be available online
Perth's population to soar
Economic profile highlights Alice skills shortage
Wanted: 20,000 workers Recruitment crisis on boomer exodus
Qld's superyacht industry granted 456 fast-track
10% mull shift to Australia
Australia looks abroad to ease construction labour shortage
Foreigners may solve housing problems: govt
Australians happy with immigration: survey
The new chicken run
WA economy to withstand global slowdown
Over 100 Kiwis move to Australia daily
Changes to student visa allow for immediate work
Government considers temp visa plan for 'labour drought'
Women take the wheel in mining boom
Migration plan to ease skills crisis
Migrant workers scoring top pay

Developing countries go for 457 visas

Proposals to double Australian immigration for WA

Unemployment rate falls as visa opportunities rise

Immigration to bring in 15,000 construction workers

Australia to introduce biometrics for visa applications

Australia increases skilled migrant, working holiday visas

New immigration measures to ease skills shortage

More migrants now using immigration agents

Australian Government to grant 152,800 residence visas

Removal of skill pathway – impact for trade applicants

Changes to the General Skilled Migration visa stream

Immigration demonstrates commitment to IT careers
January 14 2009

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has launched a recruitment drive in a bid to secure more than 60 permanent information technology specialists to rebalance its workforce with a greater proportion of staff rather than relying on contractors.

This recruitment drive is consistent with the findings of the 2008 Gershon review, a departmental spokesman said.

“We want our IT professionals to build their careers with us and develop and retain their skills base with DIAC. We are committed to well-trained and supported staff,” he said.

The Gershon review, delivered to the Minister for Finance last August, identified seven critical areas for reform. Part of the suggested change was to reduce the proportion of contractors in the IT workforce.

“Investing in ongoing positions will help DIAC manage its business-as-usual IT operation more efficiently; it is better management of our skills base and ensures our operations are sustainable – all consistent with key tenets of Sir Peter Gershon’s review,” the spokesman said.

“This is a better use of taxpayers’ money and has ongoing benefits in staff retention, development of the organisation’s IT maturity and corporate knowledge. DIAC needs to enhance its IT capability and is offering employment opportunities across a broad range of IT areas.”

Some of the applicants will also be required to support the business transformation program Systems for People and ensure the department’s technological security needs are appropriately managed and maintained.

Vacancies range from IT helpdesk support officers on packages of $53 000 a year through to SAP and senior Java technical specialists, among others, on arrival packages of more than $140 000. Applications close January 18.

DIAC employs some 7000 people – more than 1000 of whom are from the IT sector – in more than 100 locations in Australia and overseas.

Source: DIAC

Australian migration program changes in 2009
January 14 2009

The Australian migration program for the second half of 2008-09 has changed so that skilled migrants who have a confirmed job, or have skills in critical need will be given priority for a permanent visa to come to Australia.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said the changes, effective from 1 January, will ensure that the Skilled Migration program is driven by the requirements of industry and targets skills in critical need across a number of sectors.

'This will ensure our migration program is more responsive to the needs of the economy and assists industries still experiencing skills shortages,' Senator Evans said.

The new measures from 1 January 2009 include:
1. Prioritising and improving the processing of sponsored permanent migration visas, where skilled migrants are nominated by employers for jobs that cannot be filled locally;
2. Providing State and Territory Governments greater scope to address the critical skill needs in their jurisdiction. This reflects the different economies and skills requirements across States and Territories;
3. Giving priority to people who apply without a sponsor where they have an occupation on a list of skills in critical shortage;
4. Retaining the existing 133 500 planning target as a cap, with the actual number of visas granted to be kept under review by the Government for the remainder of the 2008-09 year.

'In light of the changing economic circumstances, the Rudd Government has reviewed the Skilled Migration program and consulted business and industry along with state and territory governments Australia-wide about their skills needs'.

'To meet immediate skills needs, the government will fast-track the processing of sponsored permanent migration visas, where skilled migrants are nominated by employers for jobs that cannot be filled locally.'

'This could see employer sponsored visas occupying an increasing share of the skilled program, with 36 000 visas likely in the current year,' the minister said.'

Senator Evans said about 80 per cent of employer-sponsored visas are granted to people who were already living and working in Australia on temporary visas. Fast-tracking the grant of these visas will provide greater certainty to employers and increase the number of visas granted onshore.

Where a person has applied to migrate to Australia without an employer sponsor, they will be given priority if they have an occupation on a list of skills in critical shortage.

The list of skills in critical shortage are mainly in the medical and key IT professionals, engineers and construction trades. The occupations on the critical skills list are the ones most frequently sought by employers through sponsorship.

There was a delay in processing 10 000 applications from engineers, medical professionals and other skilled migrants. Previously, they may have had to wait more than a year before being considered.

'Fast-tracking professionals on the critical skills list will ensure that the economy gets the skills it needs now, not just those applicants who applied first,' Senator Evans said.'

The government has also given state and territory governments' greater scope to address the critical skill needs in their jurisdiction. This reflects the different economies that have developed across the country.

It is hoped that the 2008-09 skilled migration program will be better in delivering the skills needed in the economy. There will also be an increase in the number of visas granted to those already in Australia and currently in jobs.

The skilled migration program was significantly increased in the May Budget from 102 500 to 133 500 places to ease nationwide skills shortages.

Senator Evans said a report released earlier in the year by respected economic analyst Access Economics shows that new migrants to Australia deliver hundreds of millions of dollars to the Commonwealth budget and the broader economy every year.

In its Migrant Fiscal Impact Model: 2008 Update, Access Economics found that the fiscal benefits from taxation and visa charges far outweighed the costs that migrants impose on health, education, welfare, employment and settlement services.

'The bottom line is that our migration program is vital to keep the economy growing as well as helping Australian businesses overcome skills shortages,' Senator Evans said.'

No change expected to Australia's record high migrant intake
December 17 2008

Despite the global financial crisis, Australia's Immigration Minister Chris Evans has indicated that he expects only modest cuts in next years migrant intake program which is currently at an all time high, with Australia taking more than 200 000 new immigrants per year.

Whilst Senator Evans admitted that a small reduction to the skilled migrant quota was still "more likely than not", he was very conscious of the damage that could be done to Australia's image as a result of a 'knee jerk reaction.'

The president of the Australian Chamber of Commerce, Peter Anderson, agreed that sudden changes in the migrant program could damage the country's migrant-friendly reputation and warned that any cut would impact the productive capacity of the economy at a time when that capacity was most needed.

"What business has been very clear about is that you shouldn't overreact," Senator Evans said.

"There's no doubt in my view that there's a strong link between the economic cycle and people's attitude towards immigration," he said.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said 'We'd be disappointed if there was anything other than a shallow cut,' adding that 'a deep cut would be about politics, not about policy.'

She pointed out that the time taken fo assimilate migrants into the economy was years, not months, meaning impulsive cuts to the quota might not be felt until well after the present crisis had passed.

She said the longer-term outlook for the Australian economy - with an ageing population and a generation of Baby Boomers set to retire - was that migrants would be required en masse.

Australia and Canada work together on business visas
November 26 2008

Australia's immigration minister, Chris Evans, welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's announcement at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Week in Lima, Peru that Canada has joined the APEC Business Travel Card scheme as a transitional member economy.

The APEC Business Travel Card "was developed in response to the need of business people to gain streamlined business visitor entry to the economies of the Asia-Pacific region to explore business opportunities, attend meetings, [and] conduct trade and investment activities," according to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

The card allows accredited business people to obtain multiple short-term business visitor entry to participating countries, and is valid for two to three months, depending on individual APEC-member rules.

"Canada's decision to join the APEC Business Travel Card scheme will further assist Australian business people travelling to Canada and also open the way for higher levels of cross-border trade and investment in the APEC region with Canada," Evans said in a press release.

"Allowing spontaneity of travel can help maximise the chances of taking advantage of business opportunities," Evans added.

Evans said there are more than 48,000 active APEC cards, with about 17,000 being held by Australian business people alone.

Australia to revise citizenship test
November 24 2008

Australia will overhaul its citizenship test after a government-appointed committee found that the existing test needed improvement.

According to Immigration Minister Chris Evans, the focus of the new test will be the 'Pledge of Commitment' that new Australians will be required to make.

'The pledge is about our democratic beliefs, our laws and the rights, responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship,' Evans said. 'It is crucial that prospective citizens understand those concepts so the questions in the new test will focus on the commitments in the pledge rather than being a general knowledge quiz about Australia.'

'The Australian Citizenship Test Review Committee made the valid point that an understanding of our civic responsibilities and what it means to be a citizen is of fundamental importance to all citizens, whether we are Australian by birth or by choice,' he added.

A new citizenship test resource booklet is expected to be drawn up by educational and civic experts by August of 2009. The booklet will be divided into 'testable' and 'non-testable' sections.

The new test will draw its questions from the testable section of the resource booklet which will cover concepts associated with the pledge. The non-testable section will contain general information about Australia, including history, culture, and notable historical figures.

The pass mark for the citizenship test will rise from 60 percent to 70 percent. A good general knowledge of English is expected.

'We want to encourage all permanent residents to become citizens,' Evans said, adding that 'Raising the pass mark will ensure we have A-grade citizens who understand our democratic beliefs and the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship.'

Generally, permanent residents in Australia are eligible to become Australian citizens after living in the country for four years.

Australia to raise salary for migrant workers
July 23, 2008

The Australian government says it will increase the salary and conditions of temporary skilled migrants.

The Australian immigration department says there was a 27 per cent increase in the number of foreign workers last year on the skilled migrant, or 457 visa, program.

Immigration minister Chris Evans says the government will be introducing measures to increase protection for these workers.

The plan includes expanded powers to monitor and investigate employers, and a new framework of penalties for sponsors found in breach of their obligations.

Senator Evans says from August 1 minimum salaries for 457 visa holders will increase by 3.8 per cent, the first pay rise in more than two years.

A number of cases of exploitation of temporary skilled workers have been made public over the past year, although the minister says these are isolated incidents.

- ABC 

Temporary skilled migration scheme popular
July 22, 2008

The Immigration Minister Chris Evans says Western Australia is the second biggest user of the temporary skilled migration scheme in the country.

Almost 12,457 visas were granted to workers employed in WA in 2007/2008.

Senator Evans says the mining, construction and manufacturing sectors are the main industries using the program in WA.

Fitters, welders and registered nurses top the list of occupations for temporary overseas workers in this state.

- ABC 

457 visa worker numbers up 27%
July 22, 2008

The number of overseas workers entering Australia through the temporary skilled migration or 457 visa program has grown by 27 per cent in the past year.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans says IT specialists, nurses and business professionals topped the list of occupations favoured by the 110,000 people taking part in the program.

About a quarter were from the United Kingdom, 14 per cent from India, 9 per cent from the Philippines and 6 per cent from China, the United States and South Africa.

Mr Evans says the 457 visa program is vital to easing a skills shortage in Australia.

He says the Government will soon improve regulation of the scheme to make sure workers are not exploited.


Business says 457 visa changes won't resolve labour shortage
July 3, 2008
A Western Australian business lobby group says recommended changes to the 457 work visa will hinder, rather than help, the chronic labour shortage.

The WA Chamber of Commerce wants the Federal Government to reconsider plans to make businesses that employ workers on the visa pay for perks such as education and air fares.

The boom state alone will need 400,000 additional workers in the next 10 years, many of them in mining.

Chamber chief executive James Pearson says the proposed changes contradict government pledges to streamline the work visa process.

"Increasing the burden on employers is increasing the barriers for employers to be able to bring in people on a temporary basis," he says.

"Our view is that these proposed changes would in fact go in the wrong direction.

"We're looking for simplification, streamlining. Lowering, not raising the barriers."


SA Govt seeks Filipino workers
July 12, 2008

The South Australian Government is working with Filipino authorities to bring more than 1,000 extra workers to the state each year.

The deal is designed to help fill an expected shortfall of 130,000 workers by 2018.

A spokesman for the treasurer Kevin Foley - who is in the Philippines - says the Government plans to sign a memorandum of understanding by the end of the year.

He says the workers would only be used for specific shortages that cannot be filled locally.


Immigration records to be available online
July 9, 2008
Almost every Australian immigration record will be available online in the next few years as part of a project being launched at the National Archives in Canberra today.

The Archives has committed to making records for the 7 million people who immigrated to Australia searchable on the internet, in a project likely to take several years.

Archives director general Ross Gibbs says the resource, called Making Australia Home, should provide the tools for people wanting to map their family story.

"We get so many inquiries from overseas, the whole diaspora of Australians," he said.

"It's by far the most asked questions we get," he said.

"People want to know where did we come from, who am I and the inquiries just keep growing.

"People have all sorts of reasons. People have official reasons to identify who they are, particularly if they want to go back to country, but mostly it's personal stories."


Perth's population to soar
June 27, 2008

A new study predicts Perth is set for a population explosion far exceeding State Government forecasts.

A leading demographer says it is an early warning for the state to plan ahead or face traffic, health and housing chaos in coming years.

950 people move to WA every week and the unprecedented growth is set to continue.

Monash University demographer, Bob Birrell, predicts Perth's population will soar 43 per cent by 2021 to 2.1 million people.

"The big problem Perth faces is the pace of growth, that's why we're seeing housing prices in Perth at Sydney levels," he said.

An influx of 640,000 people over the next 13 years would represent the fastest rate of growth for any Australian city in history.

Dr Birrell says the impact will be felt in demand for housing, hospitals, schools and public transport.

"It would seem to me that the logical thing to do would be to slow the pace of growth down," he said.

"Let's slow the mineral boom down a bit.

"Those resources will still be in the ground in 20 years time, they'll probably be worth even more."

But the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Alannah MacTiernan is standing by the government's population modelling that predicts a 27 per cent rise by 2021.

"It is possible," she said.

"We would suggest that it's unlikely but either way perth is going to get much bigger and we have to be prepared to have a more diverse city if we're going to be able to deal with it."

James Pearson from the Chamber of Commerce has released a blueprint it hopes will keep the boom going longer.

It wants migration from China and India substantially increased to help fill 400,000 new jobs in the next decade.

"It makes sense to us that we should be looking towards Asia where our major trading and investment partners are a big proportion of those migrants," he said.


Economic profile highlights Alice skills shortage
May 29, 2008

The first economic profile prepared for Alice Springs has found a skills shortage is a key challenge for the town.

Surveyed businesses were positive about their growth prospects for the next year and most expected an increase their profits.

But the profile suggests average wages have not kept pace with wage increases in the rest of the Northern Territory or nationally.

Northern Territory Minister for Business and Regional Development Kon Vatskalis says the NT Government is working to put more skilled people in Alice Springs.

"Business believe they can't expand, they can't grow because they don't have the trades and the skills and we're trying the help them by bringing people here," he said.

"We're trying to bring people from other regions of Australia or even overseas and that's why recently I authorised the appointment of an officer to come down to Alice Springs to help the people here with their 457 visas."

- ABC 

Wanted: 20,000 workers - recruitment crisis looms
May 2, 2008
The estimated shortage of 10,000 workers across the ACT could double over the next three years when large numbers of baby boomers retire.

Public service job cutbacks in Tuesday week's Federal budget, tipped to cost Canberra up to 3000 positions, is likely to have little impact on the capital's worsening skills drought.

Today, The Canberra Times begins a three-part series on the extent of the ACT skills drought, which is worse here than anywhere else in Australia, and what could be done to fix it.

ACT Chamber of Commerce chief executive Chris Peters said business growth in the territory had been stalled for 18 months due to insufficient workers.

"About two years ago staff shortages were No13 on businesses lists of concerns. It's been No1 for about 18 months, so it is the major impediment to business growth."

The ACT Skills Commission and the chamber's research shows the ACT will continue to be hardest hit of all Australian states and territories from a shortage of skilled and unskilled workers.

Access Economics research shows the ACT's population is biased towards the 45 to 59 age group.

The demographics report compiled for the Skills Commission says the retirement timing of this age group and especially those aged 50 to 54 will have an even greater impact on the ACT workforce than it will nationally.

Access Economics expects increasing labour force participation rates up to 2010, with a reversal of that trend from 2010 to 2015 and a sharp reduction in participation after then because the main part of the baby boom generation will have reached the age of 65.

ACT Skills Commission chairman Derek Volker warns that today's delays will become tomorrow's disaster when too few people are available to look after elderly folk.

"It is not a skills problem, it's more a people problem and if we don't do something about it, it could turn into a crisis not too far down the track."

Home Help Service ACT, a not-for-profit organisation that provides in-home support to the elderly and frail aged, could place 20 people immediately in its stretched ranks of carers.

Canberra employers scouring the country and overseas for employees are competing with the remainder of the western world which is suffering a skills drought.

Mr Peters said three factors contributed to the territory's exceptional worker shortage:

Having both the lowest unemployment (2.4 per cent) and highest participation rates in Australia, which meant there weren't too many stay-at-home mothers, or unemployed, to fill job vacancies;

The ACT and Adelaide had Australia's two fastest aging populations; and

Older public servants in a former superannuation scheme had to retire before 55 to maximise their superannuation benefits.

"Canberra has the highest percentage of public servants than anywhere in Australia and they retire a decade earlier than the rest of Australia." Mr Peters said Federal budget cuts in two weeks were expected to cause a net loss of 1000 people from the Commonwealth Public Service.

At best those leaving would have wide-ranging expertise.

"It depends on what the mix is I expect the mix will be fairly broad, which would be widely welcomed by the business community, but all of those won't solve our problem."

Shortages are in all sectors, from engineering, health, trades, services and construction.

Multinational construction company Bovis Lend Lease said employers were competing with unprecedented building in the booming Middle East countries, and project directors could command salaries of up to $300,000.

Hays senior regional director for Canberra Jane Donnelly said financial controllers and managers on salaries of up to $100,000 and $130,000 were in demand following the meltdown of global financial markets last year.

"Within the banking sector they are far more aware of the risk associated with certain products, they are seeking people with extensive risk analyst-type skills."

Mr Peters said the shortage meant people were finding the service in places like restaurants, hairdressing salons and workshops slower. "If you have an accident driving home tonight in your car, typically your car will sit on the panel beaters shop floor for two weeks until they can get to it. That's now. In three years time that [timeframe] will double."

- John Thistleton, The Canberra Times

Qld's superyacht industry granted 456 fast-track
May 2, 2008

A new tailored visa for the crews of superyachts will provide a boost to the tourism industry, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans has announced.

The new multiple–entry visa will allow all crew members to work in Australia for up to 12 months on commercial or private superyachts.

'Until now, there has not been an appropriate visa to allow the crews to work on a commercially chartered superyacht in Australia and this has restricted the growth in this industry.'

Existing visas including the Maritime Crew Visa and Business Long Stay (457) visas do not appropriately cover superyacht crews staying in Australia.

The new visa will come into effect in October 2008.

In the interim, the department will make temporary arrangements from May 1 so that superyacht crews will be able to use the Business Short Stay (456) visa, which is normally only available for people arriving by air and staying for less than three months.

Senator Evans says the new visa class was established in support of the growing superyacht industry and to assist tourism in areas like Queensland's Great Barrier Reef region.

Currently, the superyacht tourism industry contributes $150 million each year to Australia's economy and is expected to grow to $500 million over the next five years.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says the changes would go along way in transforming the region into the 'Caribbean of the Southern Hemsphere'.

- Queensland Business Review

10% mull shift to Australia
By Dan Eaton
April 29, 2008

One in every 10 New Zealanders is considering moving to Australia in the next year, a Fairfax Nielsen poll shows.

The poll shows that more people think National would be better at running the economy, an area Prime Minister Helen Clark traditionally has trumpeted as Labour's core strength.

With rising mortgage rates and soaring food and petrol prices putting pressure on household budgets, the poll is a wake-up call for the Government which has stressed its role in overseeing the longest period of economic growth since World War 2.

If an election was held today, National would be able to govern alone, with 52 per cent support against Labour's 34%.

Asked who they trusted most to manage the economy, a Labour-led or National-led government, only 33% of respondents said Labour while 46% saw National as a safer pair of hands.

Of concern for Labour will be the 18% of its supporters who indicated they did not trust the party on the economy, including 8% who said National would do a better job.

Younger Kiwis were most heavily represented among the 10% of voters eyeing greener pastures across the Tasman, with 20% of 18 to 24-year-olds, and 16% of 25 to 39-year-olds saying they were considering the move.

However, there was a glimmer of hope for the Government.

The huge 23-point gap between the two main parties registered in the February Fairfax poll narrowed to 18 points, with National losing three percentage points and Labour gaining two.

Clark still trails National leader John Key in the preferred prime minister stakes at 33% to his 42%, but the gap has been ratcheted back to single digits, from 15 points to nine.

Key has made significant popularity gains in Christchurch, where he now leads Clark by 13 points, a similar margin to that which his party enjoys in the Garden City -- 49% to Labour's 37%.

Auckland voters also heavily favour Key, whereas those in Wellington and Dunedin prefer Clark.

Among Maori and Pacific Islanders, Labour remains dominant, while more Caucasians and Asians would vote National.

In the leadership stakes, NZ First leader Winston Peters registered just 2%, indicating his sabre-rattling over the negative effects of the free-trade agreement (FTA) with China and an influx of Asian immigrants has failed to register.

Among the minor parties, most were steady, with the Greens registering 6%, the only one to breach the crucial 5% threshold for representation in Parliament and the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 3%.

New Zealand First was unchanged at 3%.

The Maori Party gained one point to 3%, while United Future and the Progressives were each up one point to 1%.

Act, having recently welcomed hard-Right politician Roger Douglas back into its ranks, disappeared from the poll altogether.

The survey was broadly in line with other recent polls.

A TVNZ Colmar Brunton poll last weekend put National's lead at 19 points.

However, a TV3 TNS poll had the gap closing to 10 points.

The numbers represent a significant blow for the Government. Labour might have hoped to have done better, given the positive coverage surrounding the China FTA and its decision to block the sale of Auckland International Airport.

Immigration data released last week showed the rush to Australia in the past 12 months has been the fastest since 2001. The net loss of 30,000, or more than 80 people a day, has provided easy fodder for National to lash the Government on its economic policies.

- The Press

Australia looks abroad to ease construction labour shortage
April 29, 2008

The construction industry in Victoria, Australia will need 40,000 skilled workers over the next five years to meet its labour needs, states the Master Builders Association of Victoria [MBAV].

“The state’s construction industry continues to enjoy a period of strong growth, directly employing 170,000 Victorians and an output exceeding $27 billion,” states Brian Welch, executive director at MBAV.

Victoria needs to do more to retain its current skilled professionals and attract new participants an MBAV survey of its members found.

“With an aging workforce and many of our senior building professionals close to retirement age, the situation is expected to worsen,” said Welch.

MBAV recommends that measures be introduced such as the retraining of skilled workers at retirement age so their valuable skills and experience are not lost.

“Second, investigate the increasing trend in apprentice attrition rates. Master Builders is calling on the government to fund a study into why apprentices are bailing out of apprenticeships before completion,” said Welch.

According to Victoria’s Office of Training and Tertiary Education, in 2006, there was an increase of just two per cent in apprenticeship starts but a 5.3 per cent increase in cancellations and withdrawals.

“We also recommend the government fund an advertising campaign to attract new blood to the building and construction industry,” added Welch.

- DCN News Services

Foreigners may solve housing problems: govt
April 24, 2008

Foreign construction workers could be brought in to help solve Australia's housing affordability problem.

Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek spoke positively of the proposal in a speech to the National Press Club, in which she warned a shortage of skilled labour could frustrate the government's plan to build 50,000 cheap houses in the next five years.

"I am very concerned about the skills shortage in the building industry and in related fields. I have been for some time," she said.

"I believe that training extra Australian workers and potentially filling the gap in the short term are both important solutions."

The government is considering a Housing Industry Association (HIA) proposal for a special visa scheme for thousands of overseas construction workers.

The government is also considering allowing more seasonal workers into the country, with a focus on the Pacific region.

The housing minister pulled no punches about the gravity of the housing situation in her speech, saying high house prices and rents were having serious economic and social effects.

She spoke of families having to move constantly, people unable to move to take up jobs because they could not find a place to live, and pensioners living in sub-standard conditions.

"This housing affordability problem has been barrelling down the highway at us like a runaway road train for several years," Ms Plibersek said.

And she warned the problem would be here for some time.

"I know that people are having a really tough time today. I wish I could tell them that there's an overnight solution ... but it would not be honest to say that," Ms Plibersek said.

The government's plan to bring down housing costs includes building 50,000 cheap homes for the rental market by offering tax credits to investors, $500 million to lower local fees and taxes on new housing, and a saving scheme for prospective first home buyers.

Ms Plibersek said these measures would have an impact only in the medium to long term.

She sought to reassure home owners that increasing the supply of housing would not cause house prices to fall. She said the market was divided into sub-markets and increasing supply in one would not significantly affect the others.

"We don't operate in one housing market in Australia," she said.

- Sydney Morning Herald

Australians happy with immigration: survey
April 23, 2008

A national survey on social cohesion shows the majority of Australians support the current immigration intake.

Survey author Professor Andrew Markus from Monash University says the findings showed a positive response to Australia's immigration policy.

He says the survey of 2,000 adults across Australia showed the majority trust their fellow Australians, and had a strong sense of belonging.

"96 per cent of respondents at the national level, so that's nearly everybody, has a strong sense of belonging in Australia and that is a very, very strong finding and very positive finding for this society," he said.

But he says there were pockets, especially in parts of Queensland and Sydney, that showed dissatisfaction among one-quarter of long-time Australians.

"Areas where [people] haven't had a lot of contact with people from other cultures, immigrant groups, and so on, there has been less acceptance," he said.

Professor Markus says the survey also showed the longer immigrants live in Australia, the more their values echo the national norm.

- ABC News

The new chicken run
By Surika van Schalkwyk
April 23, 2008

The number of South Africans wanting to move abroad has risen sharply this year, according to emigration consultants -- and they say Jacob Zuma and Eskom are to blame.

South Africa is afflicted by the world's biggest skills exodus and has the worst skills shortages of 55 countries, according to last year's Competitiveness Yearbook and Productivity SA.

The country is particularly short of engineers, ranking last in this category and not all those leaving are white, the manager of Afriforum's "come home" campaign, Alana Bailey, says. A third of emigrés who have contacted her organisation about returning to South Africa are black. Last month more than 11 000 South Africans flocked to the Opportunities Australian Expo at Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg in search of greener pastures. The expo was designed to put skilled South Africans directly in touch with Australian employers.

Four emigration companies told the Mail & Guardian the numbers seeking their services had more than doubled over the past month.

"The Eskom crises and Zuma being elected president of the ANC are the main causes of people's uncertainty about the country's future," said Bruce Sherman, general manager of Immigration Unit's South African branch.

"We recently had seminars in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg attended by hundreds of people," Sherman said. "At the Johannesburg seminar we had to turn 100 people away because the venue was too small for all those that showed up."

Gary Chapman, MD of ACN Consultants in Johannesburg, said the number of would-be emigrants who had approached his company had doubled since the beginning of the year.

Chapman, an Australian-qualified immigration lawyer, said he had detected a new sense of urgency among clients. "Normally people just want to find out about the process of emigration at first. But lately people are adamant -- they've decided, and as soon they get their visas they're gone."

Australia is the number one destination for South African emigrants, with between 12 000 and 13 000 people moving there permanently or temporarily each year, Chapman said. Only 0,1% ever return. Australian government statistics estimate that 75 000 South Africans permanently relocated to Australia between 1995 to 2005.

The South African Marketing Research Association has described Australia as the biggest threat to South Africa's skilled workforce.

The Australian government has launched various campaigns in recent months to recruit skilled South Africans, including a specific campaign to poach police officers in October last year and a drive to recruit engineers on the mines.

Statistics released by the South African High Commission in the United Kingdom indicate that in 2006, between 750 000 and 1,4-million South Africans were living in London alone.

There are no recent government statistics on the number and categories of South Africans emigrating, but the Engineering Council of South Africa said about 300 qualified engineers leave South Africa every year.

A Centre for Global Development study, published last year, indicated that about 65 000 African-born medical doctors (about 20% of total) and 70 000 African-born professional nurses (10% of total) were working abroad in developed countries in 2000.

The skills shortage has a crippling effect on government. A Centre of Skills Development and Training report last October indicated more than 320 000 vacant positions in local and provincial government in December 2006 ­- 28% of the government workforce.
- Mail and Guardian Online

WA economy to withstand global slowdown
April 22, 2008

There is renewed confidence China's boom will keep delivering economic dividends to Western Australia.

The forecasting firm Access Economics has released its latest Business Outlook publication, saying 2008 looks fine for China and therefore Australia.

A director at the firm, Chris Richardson, says people are being too pessimistic about a slowdown in Australia, with China continuing to underwrite prosperity through higher commodity prices.

"We have learnt that coking coal prices, which many analysts thought might double, have tripled," he said.

"This is a flood of money coming into Australia's economy."

Mr Richardson says a raft of projects will ensure another big year for construction.

He says even if there is a correction in China's market a long list of new mining projects lined up for Western Australia will provide a buffer to help the state through an economic slowdown.

"That takes time and part of the reason why even if China stops on a dime tomorrow Western Australia won't is that pipeline," he said.

"Now again it's not to say that you're immune, it's not to say that it won't happen but that the longer this boom goes the greater the risk that Western Australia has a very difficult year at some stage, but it's not imminent."
But that view is not shared by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), which says its research has led it to be optimistic about the state's economic future.

The Chief Executive of the CCI, James Pearson, says international demand and more than $160 billion in new projects will help the economy grow.

"Our own research leads us to be optimistic about the prospects for sustained economic growth," he said.

"We think the fundamentals of the WA economy are strong. We've got strong demand from China, emerging demand from India and of course demand from Japan is continuing.

Mr Pearson has called on state and federal governments to address labour shortages, to ensure the future of the boom.

"We need to see an increase in immigration, both temporary and permanent,' he said.

"We'd like to encourage increased participation for example by women and older workers, and we'd also like to see improvements in productivity, for example more flexible arrangements in the workplace to reward workers who are prepared to work smarter and work harder."

- ABC News

Over 100 Kiwis move to Australia daily
April 22, 2008

More than 100 New Zealanders emigrated to neighbouring Australia every day in the 12 months ending March 31, official statistics show.

A total of 38,738 citizens left NZ to settle in Australia, the biggest number since 2001, Statistics New Zealand said on Monday.

When the number of New Zealanders returning home from Australia is taken into account, there was a net outflow of 30,219 in the year.

Net immigration from all countries for the 12 months 4,678, down from 12,081 in 2006/07.

Britain continued to provide the biggest number of immigrants to New Zealand, as it has done since 2005, with 6,894 in the 12 months to March, though this was down from 10,235 the previous year.

India was the next biggest contributor with 4,159, up from 2,536 in 2006/07, followed by the Philippines with 3,262, up from 2,714.

There were 2,500 immigrants from Fiji, 2,100 from South Africa and 1,900 from China, which had been the biggest single source of new settlers from 1996 to 2004.

NZ opposition parties blamed policies of the Labour Party-led coalition government, which has been in power since 1999, for the mass emigration to Australia where wages are higher.

- Sydney Morning Herald 

Changes to student Visa allow for work
April 17, 2008

Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship has announced all initial Student Visa holders are permitted to work once they’ve commenced a course of study.

Previously, student visa-holders had to apply for work rights after starting their course in Australia. This they had to do by filling out an extra form and paying a new fee. Too offset this, the Australian Student Visa lodging fee will go up by $20.

Announced on the 15th of April 2008, this new improvement by the Department of Immigration on the Student Visa that allows overseas learners to work while studying, will assist them in funding their stay in Australia.

From April 26, student visa-holders will be able to access these work rights automatically once they have commenced their course of study in Australia.

Government considers temporary visa plan for 'labour drought'
April 3, 2008

MARK COLVIN: The National Farmers Federation today launched a 42-point action plan to try and fill what it calls the chronic labour shortage in agriculture.

The NFF says that if the drought breaks across the country, the sector will need 100,000 employees.

The organisation is calling for changes to the 457 visa legislation, and the creation of a seasonal visa programme targeting Pacific Islanders.

The government says it's assessing a temporary visa programme being tried out in New Zealand to see if it could work here.

Barbara Miller reports:

BARBARA MILLER: The National Farmers Federation is keen to stress that many of the 42 points on its action plan relate to domestic solutions to the labour shortage.

But the NFF says changes to immigration policies must be part of the strategy.

The Farmers Federation says the 457 visa regulations are not flexible enough to be of real use in the agricultural sector.

Denita Wawn is the NFF's General Manager of Workplace Relations.

DENITA WAWN: There is a minimum salary level that is significantly higher than minimum salary levels required to be paid of Australians, which we think is inappropriately unfair. We also believe that that minimum salary level doesn't take into account non-monetary benefits, usually provided in skilled jobs in agriculture.

BARBARA MILLER: A group of industry representatives is currently compiling a report for the Federal government on possible changes to the 457 programme.

Its interim report, submitted last week, recommended for example, fast-tracking 457 applications from employers with a good record of compliance with immigration and industrial relations laws.

The Immigration Department is also assessing a trial scheme running in New Zealand enabling Pacific Island guest workers to fill seasonal labour shortages.

And the Department points out that it is also expanding its Working Holiday visa programme.

The NFF says it would prefer a seasonal visa programme similar to New Zealand's to be introduced to meet the labour shortages for unskilled jobs.

DENITA WAWN: Certainly the NFF loves the backpackers and also our grey nomads as they travel around Australia and they've been a very important part of resolving our labour needs. Nevertheless there are some disadvantages in relying on backpackers. Firstly that they are moving around and so hence that they won't stay the whole season, also they're unlikely to return for second season. So we're really not getting that experience and expertise in picking fruit.

BARBARA MILLER: The Minerals Council of Australia estimates that its labour shortage between now and 2015 will be around 70,000.

The Council's Chief Executive Mitch Hooke says 457 visas can only be a stop-gap measure to address that issue.

MITCH HOOKE: The whole skilled migration programme for us, particularly the temporary 457 visas is really an acute response to a chronic problem. In other words this is not going to be the silver bullet solution. It is really plugging a gap while we work on what is the fundamental changes to the national education training system. In other words there are some systemic failures that need to be addressed in that area.

BARBARA MILLER: The agricultural sector is calling for seasonal visas to be introduced, specifically targeted to Pacific Islanders. Would such a scheme be of any use to your sector?

MITCH HOOKE: There's certainly some scope for looking for a sub-class to the 457 visas, what they call a 459 visa, which is a bit more of a temporary visa for say constructions workers and more itinerant workers. So, yeah there's some scope to look at that.

BARBARA MILLER: But Bob Birrell, the Director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, says he'd have serious concerns about the introduction of any guest worker programme.

BOB BIRRELL: Our tradition, and I endorse this tradition, is that if we need people in Australia, we bring people on a permanent basis, so as not to create the situation of a group of second class citizens doing dirty work that locals are not prepared to do. And I don't think we should move away from that.

The problems of bringing in people to do work that locals are not prepared to do and requiring them to stay in those positions, essentially limiting their rights to move, is compounded when the migrants in question come from cultural and racially distinct backgrounds. That just magnifies the likelihood that the work will be stigmatised as something that they do rather than we do. And I think we should avoid going down that track at all costs.

MARK COLVIN: Bob Birrell from the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University ending Barbara Miller's report.
Barbara Miller, ABC

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Women take the wheel in mining boom
April 3, 2008

Melissa Marco is part of the growing sisterhood cashing in on Australia’s mineral boom, as mining giants struggle with a chronic labour shortage.

The 28-year-old mum works behind the wheel of a 240 tonne dump truck at Rio Tinto's Bengalla coal mine in the NSW Hunter Valley.

"Many people are quite surprised when they meet me out of work to find out what I do," she said.

"I dress quite like a girl and have my hair nice and they think that I look too small and feminine to work in the mining industry."

Ms Marco said handling a truck more than 4,000 times her own weight is "quite an easy skill to learn".

"Everything else around you is quite large so it's all in equal proportion — anyone can learn it," she said.

Ms Marco is one of 17,500 women in the mining workforce, up from 8400 in 1998, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The worker shortage in the mining industry was highlighted by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday when she said the mining industry would be short of 70,000 skilled workers by 2015.

"The mining industry is currently experiencing the highest vacancy-to-employment ratio of any industry — with around 3.6 vacancies for every 100 people employed — which has helped give it also the strongest wages growth of any industry," she said.

Bengalla mine manager Tony Davis attributed the rising number of women to the industry's high salaries and incentives to lure women to mine sites.

"I think that’s largely due to companies being flexible to working arrangements with women, accommodating childcare needs [and] schooling.

"There is certainly a role that women play in the mining industry and that role’s not confined to your standard admin type duties as of the past."

Mr Davis also said women improve the culture in mining which is "typically an environment of bravado and masculinity".

"Some of the other skills that women bring to the environment is they’re much more patient — they're less prone to taking risks than men," he said.

While women are being embraced at the "coal face", they are not necessarily receiving the full package across all levels in the industry.

At senior management level, women in the mining industry earned an average of 25 percent less than their male counterparts, according to a 2007 survey based on hours worked by the Australasian Institute of Minerals and Metallurgy.
Josephine Asher, ninemsn

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Migration plan to ease skills crisis
March 20, 2008

Big business and state governments would be able to fast-track thousands of temporary foreign workers into jobs in mines and hospitals to tackle the skills crisis under proposed changes to the 457 visa scheme.

The Rudd Government is also looking at allowing climate refugees — people from countries hit by rising sea levels — to resettle in Australia, as well as a scheme to accept unskilled guest workers from Pacific islands.

The plans could add to the boom in Australia's population which, according to new figures, surged past 21 million last year on the back of skilled migration.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans has told The Age he is sympathetic to the idea of allowing companies with proven records to import skilled migrants without arduous immigration processes.

"If BHP wants to bring in an engineer, should they have to go through as much red tape as a small construction subcontractor who is looking to source labour for the minimum salary level from a non-English-speaking country?" Senator Evans said.

The 457 visas have been controversial, with Labor claiming in opposition that unscrupulous employers were using foreign workers to undercut local wages. Unions also claim that temporary skilled migration is a form of indentured servitude, which is used to keep a lid on wages.

But Senator Evans said the scheme was working "pretty well" and only a small percentage of employers had abused it.

A problem, however, was inflexibility, with businesses claiming the processing time for skilled workers was too long. "With a global economy, they want to make decisions much quicker than they used to and they want to respond to demand much quicker," Senator Evans said.

The fast-tracking proposal is being considered by a three-member business panel, chaired by Xstrata Australia chairman Peter Coates. It is due to present an interim report to Senator Evans today.

Last financial year, 46,680 visas were issued to foreign workers under the 457 program. Senator Evans said state governments were among the biggest users of the 457 program. "Am I worried about the exploitation of doctors and nurses employed by the NSW Health Commission? No," he said.

He said the Government was also looking at a New Zealand scheme that allowed in unskilled workers from Pacific island nations on a seasonal basis.

Advocates say such a scheme would economically benefit both countries, but opponents warn it could take jobs from Australians. "New Zealand is trialling such a scheme and we are looking at how that is progressing and what lessons might be learned," Senator Evans said.

Meanwhile, Australia's population is growing at its fastest rate in almost 20 years, with imports of skilled workers lifting net migration to a record 179,122 people in the year to September, and population growing by 318,500 to 21,097,148.

But the arrival of new workers has exacerbated the housing shortage. Other Bureau of Statistics figures released yesterday show that housing starts edged up marginally last year to 153,094 — according to the ANZ Bank, about 25,000 to 30,000 fewer than population growth requires.
Jewel Topsfield, Tim Colebatch, The Age

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Migrant workers scoring top pay
March 18, 2008

Skilled temporary migrant workers are earning on average $15,000 more than their Australian counterparts, undermining trade union claims that the system is being abused to undercut local wages.

Figures obtained by The Australian show that holders of 457 visas, which allow temporary skilled migrants to work in Australia for up to four years, are earning more than the average salaries of local workers across all industries in which they are employed.

The figures have reignited the debate over the use of foreign workers, with the Opposition seizing on the data as "dispelling the myth" that temporary skills workers are driving down wages, but unions and the Rudd Government insist that many visa holders are exploited by unscrupulous employers.

The Howard government introduced the current 457 visa regime in response to a skills crisis crippling growth industries such as mining and information technology.

Despite their use, skills shortages have worsened, with the Rudd Government citing them as a key contributor to upward pressure on inflation and interest rates and promising a massive program of skills training as part of its "education revolution".

The 457 visas have been a key target of the union movement, with former ACTU secretary and now Labor MP Greg Combet declaring in 2006 that thousands of workers on the visas from countries with lower wages than Australia were being recruited and denied the chance to join trade unions.

"The Government is allowing the Chinese Communist Party to dictate terms in the Australian labour market," he said.

However, Immigration Department figures for 2006-07 show that across 16 industry sectors, 457 visa holders earned more than the going rate for local workers as recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The average yearly salary for a 457 visa holder was about $71,600, more than $15,000 above the average salary of about $55,500.

In some industries, such as the specialised field of communications, imported workers earned salaries $25,000 a year more than the industry average. In the mining sector, 457 visa holders earned an average of $95,200 in 2006-07, compared with an average of $89,550 across the sector.

The latest figures revealed salaries for 457 visa holders in the sector had risen to $103,700.

While unions and some government figures cautioned about comparing skilled worker wages with industry-wide average wages - a category that includes lowly paid, unskilled workers - the figures indicate the scheme is not subject to the widespread rorting claimed in the politically charged atmosphere leading up to November's election.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow played down the figures yesterday, saying they were too general. "It doesn't compare the wages and conditions of 457 migrant workers to local workers with similar occupations and in similar locations," she said.

NSW Unions secretary John Robertson said for the most part the 457 program was administered honestly, but that among lower-paid categories, such as trades, exploitation did occur.

"In the trades, there are many examples where people are being paid below the market average and are effectively bonded workers," he said.

But Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the temporary skilled migration program had proved integral in addressing Australia's skills crisis in sectors such as health, education and mining.
"Nearly 60 per cent of 457 visas are granted to professionals, with a further 10 per cent granted to associate professionals," he said.

Most employers paid market-rate wages and valued the contribution of temporary migrants, Senator Evans said. "A small minority of employers seek to underpay and exploit migrant workers and the Government is committed to cracking down on any abuses."

Employment Minister Julia Gillard said that while the program had been misused by some unscrupulous employers, it played a "vital role" in combating the skills shortage.

"While the majority of employers do the right thing, there have obviously been a number of cases in the recent period where employees on 457 visas have been exploited, including underpaid," she said.

In 2006-07, 46,680 visas were issued to foreign skilled workers under the 457 program. An increasing number of the visas are going to workers from developing nations such as China, The Philippines and India.

Opposition immigration spokesman Chris Ellison said the high wages commanded by holders of the 457 visa were a product of global market demand for skilled workers.

"This dispels the trade union scare campaign, which has portrayed 457s as providing cheap foreign labour," he said.

Despite more workers entering Australia from low-wage countries, the figures showed the average wages of 457 visa holders increased across most sectors in the six months to December last year.

Even in industries where workers from low-wage countries are increasingly dominating, such as manufacturing, construction, communications and health, overseas workers were earning more than the market wage.
Paul Maley and Matthew Franklin, The Australian 

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Developing countries go for 457 visas
March 17, 2008

Computing professionals led the list of top 15 occupations for primary 457 visa grants in 2006-07, the Immigration Department said.

As the new temporary foreign workers change the face of Australia's workplaces, business groups last week called for an immediate boost to skills training positions and unions expressed concern that increasing reliance on developing-country workers risked lowering general wages.

Immigration Department figures obtained by The Weekend Australian provide a snapshot of temporary foreign workers brought into the country on skilled migrant visas, which allow the employees to stay for up to four years.

The figures show the breadth of the skills crisis runs across the economy, as industries ranging from the healthcare sector to communications, mining and manufacturing import skilled workers to fill vacancies.

Workers from India, China and The Philippines are flooding into Australia's hospitals, factories and construction sites as employers increasingly look to developing countries to combat chronic skills shortages.

In 2006-07, 46,680 temporary permits, known as 457 visas, were issued to foreign skilled workers.

Health and community services accounted for 16 per cent of all 457 visas issued, communication services 10 per cent, property and business services 10 per cent, manufacturing 9 per cent and construction 9 per cent. Professionals exceed the number of other 457 classes, making up seven of the top 10 skills categories.

But as employers search for workers, Australia is increasingly turning to developing countries to fill its vacancies. Britain contributed the most workers in the past six months (6130), followed by India (3670), The Philippines (1870), China (1850) and the US (1570).

British workers were most likely to work as doctors and nurses or in the property and business service sector. Americans were concentrated in communications.

But the use of Chinese workers grew rapidly, particularly in manufacturing. Indian workers were concentrated in communications and health, while workers from The Philippines were imported for building sites and manufacturing.

The rate at which the visas are issued continues to grow. While 46,680 visas were issued in the 12 months to June 30 last year, 25,750 were issued in the six months to the end of December - a 10 per cent increase on current trends.

While the resource-rich states of Western Australia and Queensland have been driving the so-called "two-speed" economy, the slower growth states of NSW and Victoria took the greatest numbers of 457 visa holders.

The chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, said the 457 program had grown quickly and business had become "dependent on it".

"But the economy is also very dependent on it and we're going to be very dependent on it if we want to keep the economy growing," she said.

The director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, Bob Birrell, said the most striking trend was the high take-up rate among citizens from the developing world.

"In the six months since the end of the financial year, China has overtaken the US. That's a pretty good indication of where the program is going," he said. "Five or six years ago, that was not the case."
Paul Maley, The Australian

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Proposals to double Australian immigration for Western Australia revealed

The Opposition leader in Western Australia (WA) has announced plans to double the amount of people entering the region through Australian immigration. The proposals have been suggested as a way to solve the skills and rental housing shortage currently being experienced in the area.

Liberal leader Troy Buswell said: "We envisage that the WA Growth Quota would be around 2400 - meaning that business would be allowed to recruit roughly twice the number of migrants that it can at the moment." He added that while permanent migration is important, it will not satisfy the needs of WA and the state needs more temporary skilled workers. People interested in Australian immigration can take a skilled visa online assessment to start the process.

In related news, a shortage of staff in the hotel industry is being created by a boom in the industry. The Australian Hotel Association has warned of the challenges facing businesses in Australia when trying to recruit and retain staff.

Australia needs skilled workers: Anyone applying for an Australian visa should begin by completing the Ozlife online free immigration assessment to see if they meet the Australian visa requirements.

Unemployment rate falls, promoting Australian visa opportunities

March 11, 2008

The unemployment rate in Australia has fallen to a record 33-year low, providing good news for people considering Australian immigration. Official figures have revealed that the economy added twice as many jobs as was expected in February.

Over 36,000 jobs were added last month, marking the 16th consecutive month that there had been a jump in the number of jobs. Stephen Halmarick, co-head of market economics at Citi, told Reuters: 'The RBA has made it pretty clear they are looking for a significant slowdown in demand. It's going to be hard for them to achieve that outcome given the strength of the labour market, even with the obvious weakness in confidence in global financial markets." With the improvement s in the job market in Australia, now could be a good time to take advantage of Australian immigration. The Australia Migration Occupation in Demand List (MODL) shows people which professions are needed most in the country.

In related news, more people are needed to work in the accounting industry in Australia. The sector has created a skilled migration programme to cope with skill shortages.

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Australian immigration to bring in 15,000 construction workers
March 4, 2008

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is looking into a solution to ease Australia's current housing shortage, which includes taking care of the country's other shortage: construction labour.

Mr Rudd told Channel Seven this morning that importing 15,000 building workers was a possibility.

"What we'll do, and the Immigration Minister is looking at this right now, is use that increase in the skilled migration quota to look at the specific needs of the construction industry," Rudd said.

The Housing Industry Association (HIA) is calling for a specialist temporary visa program to address the country's critical shortage of construction workers.

Managing Director of the HIA, Ron Silberberg, says this shortage of construction workers is hindering Australia's ability to build new houses.

He says that up to 15,000 skilled workers are needed, and that many could come from the United States, where he says the building industry is collapsing.

"We've increased the possibility of bringing folk in," Rudd stated. "We know there's pressure in the construction industry for housing and obviously there is an availability in supply of various parts of the world - like the US."

Tradespeople from other countries, such as from Europe, will also be considered, as long as they have skills that would be readily transferable to Australia's residential building industry.

Australia needs skilled workers: Anyone applying for an Australian visa should begin by completing the Ozlife online free immigration assessment to see if they meet the Australian visa requirements

Australia to introduce biometrics for visa applications
February 26, 2008

Australia will begin to introduce biometrics as part of their immigration processes, including visa applications. The collected biometrics will include facial images and fingerprint scans.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) stated that biometrics have aided them in a few cases, including uncovering illegal foreign fishers attempting to use multiple identities at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin. In another case, biometrics helped identify a Ukrainian backpacker who turned up in a Brisbane hospital with amnesia.

DIAC cited an Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report that showed "substantial improvements" in the department's identity management capability, along with recommendations on further developing the biometrics program.

"DIAC has begun work on the four ANAO recommendations to develop an evaluation strategy, assess the costs and benefits of broadening biometric capability, strengthen assurance processes and enhance stakeholder involvement," said Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.

"Better identity management and the use of biometrics are fundamental in the fight against identity crime and to secure Australia's borders," he added. "It will also facilitate faster processing for genuine travellers."

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Australia increases skilled migrant, working holiday visas
February 18, 2008

Australia has announced an expansion of its skilled migration program by 6,000 places to 108,500 for the 2007-08 year in a response to ongoing labor shortages.

Australia's General Skilled Migration and Employer Sponsored visa programs allow skilled professionals and tradesmen to immigrate to the country under a variety of visas. Some require sponsorship by an employer or state/territory government, while others allow a migrant to come to Australia and look for work without a specific job offer.

"Employer-sponsored visas are the highest priority because they put a migrant worker directly into a skilled job," said Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Evans.

Australia will also expand its Working Holiday agreements with other countries to assist the tourism and construction industries. Working Holiday visas allow young people on extended holidays in Australia to take up temporary employment in certain sectors.

People in Australia on Working Holiday visas who are employed in the construction sector will also get a bonus. Working Holiday makers who have worked for at least three months in the construction industry in regional areas will have an option to extend their stay by one year. This adds to similar rules that currently exist for primary industry such as agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining industries.

"The tourism and primary industry sectors in particular will benefit as the pool of young people coming to Australia on working holidays continues to grow," Evans said.

According to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the number of people in Australia on Working Holiday visas has grown from 85,200 in 2001-02 to 126,600 in 2006-07.

The number of people who have extended their Working Holiday visas has almost tripled from 2690 in 2005-06 to 7,990 in 2006-07. This number is expected to increase by 51 percent to more than 10,000 during the current financial year.

"It is estimated that extending this working holiday visa concession to work in the construction industry in regional Australia could attract a further 5000 workers to that industry alone," Evans said.

The announcements are part of a package of measures designed to alleviate the nation's skills and labor shortages. Evans said the measures have the potential to provide thousands of extra workers for Australian employers and could help stave off infationary pressures.

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New immigration measures to ease skills shortage
January 28, 2008

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, announced on 17th February that Australia would relax its migration programme, allowing more skilled workers to enter Australia to fill the current labour shortages that are facing Australian companies.

The Skilled Migration program will be increased by 6000 places in 2007-08, bringing the total number of visas to 108,500.

Permanent employer sponsored visas and General Skilled Migration visas will make up the increase in the skilled migration programme.

'Employer sponsored visas are the highest priority because they put a migrant worker directly into a skilled job,' Senator Evans said.

Senator Evans said the package had the potential to provide thousands of additional workers in the short term, especially for the labour-strapped mining and construction industries.
Figures out last week showed unemployment falling at a 33-year low of 4.1 percent in January.

'Skills and labour shortages are also a major cause of inflationary pressures in the economy,' Senator Evans said.

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More migrants now using immigration agents

It now seems more migrants to Australia are using agents compared to migrants of other destinations according to the latest Emigrate Australia reader survey. 59.4% of readers now say they are using an immigration consultant for their applications.

The Emigrate Australia reader survey looked at various issues of the immigration process including demographics, family factors, motivations and the immigration process. Other significant trends for Australia include Western Australia taking out a clear victory as the preferred destination for UK migrants (followed by South Australia) and financial motivations rising in comparison to lifestyle and climate factors.  

Most respondents indicated that the WAITING was the most difficult part of the process.  Therefore, there is a strong case for using an immigration consultant, who can help the applicant AVOID DELAYS and assist with QUICKER PROCESSING by presenting a 100% correct and complete application.

Secondly, the application process and preparing paperwork was also perceived to be a difficult part of the process. Again, there is a strong case for IMMIGRATION CONSULTANTS who can make the application process smoother and clearer and provide personalised assistance and representation in this bureaucratic process.

The vast majority of readers indicated the more appealing lifestyle and safer place to bring up children, with climate being a major factor for emigration to Australia.

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Emigrate Australia 07, Outbound Publishing  

Australian Government to grant 152,800 residence visas

The 2007-08 Migration Programme planning level will be set at 152,800 places. This level will help meet Australia's labour force needs and maintain a strong cohesive community.

The Skilled Migration Stream will have a modest increase of 5,000 places with a total of 102,500 places for those with workforce and English language skills that will enable them to enter Australia and immediately contribute to the ongoing strength of our economy.

During the 2006-07 year the number of partner visas in the family scheme was increased by 4,000 places, this level will be maintained in the 2007-08 Migration Programme at 50,000 places.

The increased mobility of young professionals has created a higher demand for partner visas. Many young professionals travel internationally and develop relationships with other young skilled professionals.

This year's migration programme continues the Australian Government's focus of keeping the economy strong by keeping pace with the demand for skilled labour and ensuring the country has a cohesive integrated community.

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Removal of skill pathway – major impact for trade assessment applicants relying predominately on work experience

A recent major announcement by Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) is set to change the options for skilled migrants by removing a skill pathway, directly impacting the recognition of work experience critical for many trade applicants.

Until further notice TRA will no longer accept applications that predominantly rely on evidence of work experience and would normally be assessed under Skill Pathway D of the Uniform Assessment Criteria (UAC).

Any applications that have been received by TRA until 30 September, and are affected by the new changes, will be returned with the application fee.

Applications received on or after 1 October 2007 will be assessed by TRA against the UAC, exclusive of the former Skill Pathway D, and the standard fee will apply.

Applicants will be able to demonstrate that they have met the Australian benchmark for their trade by the completion of one of the following pathways:

Pathway A: a formal apprenticeship
Pathway B: an informal apprenticeship
Pathway C: Vocational Training
Pathway E: an Australian qualification

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Changes to the General Skilled Migration visa stream

Changes to the General Skilled Migration visa stream took effect on 1st September 2007.

Several new visa subclasses are currently in place taking over from the various existing visa subclasses. The new visa subclasses include changes to the criteria and the number of points that will be allocated.

Improving the level of English language skills for main applicants is the main focus of the recent changes, making it more difficult for those from non English speaking backgrounds to reach the desired level of English language requirements. In addition, native English speakers are required to take the test and obtain at least 7 points across the four main areas.

Other significant changes now in place include:

• General Skilled Migration applicants will be able to include their interdependent partner in their application;
• Assurance of Support provisions for General Skilled Migration visas will be removed;
• The current SSASSL (Sydney and Selected Areas Skill Shortage List) will be removed;
• The pass and pool mark settings for the points test have been announced, including awarding points for sponsorship by a relative in a designated area;
• Bonus points for Capital Investment will be removed;
• The two year study rule has been clarified;
• Second stage sponsorship or nomination requirements for provisional visa holders will be removed;
• Access to Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS) for provisional visa holders has been improved

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