Australian political leaders should stop using migration as a scapegoat for not properly planning for booming populations in big cities, according to a leading business group.Instead, they should recognize the benefits of migration to the economy, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry argues.
Spurred by its concern that governments that have become too caught up with constricting temporary skilled migration, the chamber has released a policy highlighting the boost migration gives to businesses.
ACCI chief executive James Pearson hopes it will help tackle perceptions, being fed by state and territory leaders, that migration has been the cause of congestion in Sydney and Melbourne.
“Migration is being used as an easy object of criticism – a scapegoat if you will – for a failure by successive governments at federal, state and territory level to plan properly for population growth,” Mr Pearson told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
“People don’t say that New York is too big. People don’t say that London is full.
“Well, cities like Sydney and Melbourne are international scale cities and they deserve international quality planning and leadership in order that they can remain successful and continue to grow.”
The chamber has recommended federal and state governments acknowledge the comparative advantage migration has given Australia when making new population policies.
Mr Pearson said one-in-three Australian small businesses was started by a migrant, with such businesses the “lifeblood” of the economy.
“Let’s not kill the goose that laid the golden egg,” he said.
The ACCI policy also argues Australia’s migration program could be refined to help it become more responsive to skill and labour needs.
Those changes should include extending employer-nominated migration to all skilled occupations and ensuring visa fees and charges are internationally competitive, the chamber believes.
The push comes as state and territory leaders prepare to discuss population issues in their first meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Adelaide on Wednesday.
Mr Morrison has a “population framework” in mind but has asked each of the states and territories to come up with areas they want new migrants to go.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been pushing for a slowdown on migration to NSW, as Sydney struggles after years of under-investment in infrastructure.
But Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says population policy needs to be met with proper infrastructure investment from Canberra.