Settlement Services International (SSI) welcomes the opportunity for a broader conversation about population policy in Australia that has been recently provided by political commentary and by media coverage of Australia’s immigration figures and rising population.
SSI supports a population conversation that brings balance, fact and data on Australia’s migration program so that our successful multicultural social fabric and community cohesion are not undermined.
SSI acknowledges the strong multi-party support for Australia’s non-discriminatory migration program and investment towards the successful settlement and integration of newcomers.
Migration has clear economic as well as social benefits for Australia. The Productivity Commission Inquiry Report Migrant Intake into Australia in 2016 found that with net migration at the historic average rate, GDP per person is projected to increase by some 7% relative to zero net overseas migration by 2060.
SSI supports the Productivity Commission’s recommendation from this inquiry that the Australian government should articulate a population policy to be published alongside the periodic intergenerational report.
SSI also supports the Productivity Commission’s recommendation that, in determining the migrant intake, the Australian government should give greater consideration to the implications for planning and investment and that State and Territory governments should develop detailed infrastructure plans that are consistent with population growth.
SSI notes the Productivity Commission’s extensive deliberations in the 2016 inquiry on the aim of the skilled migration stream and the goal of the stream to contribute to economic development and meet labour market needs within the broader context of maximising the wellbeing of the Australian community.
As flagged by the Productivity Commission, SSI encourages stronger government stewardship and longer-term coordination of the skilled migration program to meet this objective.
Currently the skilled migration intake — which accounts for about 60% of the annual migrant intake, of which about 90% is reported to settle in Sydney and Melbourne — is driven primarily by individual businesses and shorter-term needs for skilled staff.
SSI welcomes the cross-sectoral support of peak business, union, multicultural and settlement organisations for Australia’s permanent migration program as expressed through the recently released National Compact on Permanent Migration.
SSI also welcomes dialogue on the benefits of newcomers settling in regional cities and towns.
As a provider of settlement services in regional areas, SSI sees first-hand the benefits to local economies and community social cohesion when regional settlement is driven by local communities welcoming newcomers. Findings emerging from a three-year study of settlement of recently arrived refugees in NSW, Victoria and Queensland (conducted by Collins and Reid) confirm that a warm welcome makes all the difference, with 68% of Queensland respondents in the research study reporting it was “very easy” or “easy” to make friends in Australia.