Minister suggests Australia may reduce immigration permits

A slowing economy may compel Australia to tighten its borders, Immigration Minister Chris Evan said Sunday, dpa reported.

The nation's immigration will be reassessed by the government next month when the mid-year economic data is released.

The global financial crisis has resulted in an increased interest in migrating to Australia, especially from Britain and New Zealand.

"I think the downturn in Great Britain over the last year or two has actually seen a renewed interest from Great Britain in people looking to migrate either temporarily or permanently," Evan told Channel Nine.

"We are a global labour market these days, we compete for migrants with other countries and so changes in the global economic conditions will affect our migration program and those who are seeking to come here," the Minister said.

Meanwhile, opposition Liberal Party immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone is urging the government to immediately scale down immigration intake by one quarter as a slowing economy is likely to increase unemployment.

But Evan argued that migrants have a positive economic impact.

"What we know is most migrants have better job outcomes than Australians locally. We know that they consume, they buy property and they're a net positive to the budget.

"So while it's easy to call for a slowdown in migration, there are actually very strong, positive economic impacts that come from migration, particularly if you are bringing in skills that allow you to build the economy.

"And a lot of the skills that are coming in at the moment are in the mining sector, which has allowed us to increase our exports," the minister said, reports the Australian Associated Press (AAP) news agency.

The 2008-09 migration and humanitarian program is expected to total 203,000 visa grants, with 133,500 allocated for skilled migrants, 56,500 places in the family stream and a further 13,500 places for refugee and humanitarian entrants.

The opposition is urging the government to reduce the number to the 2005-2006 level of 142,930.

"The program was designed in the light of the forecasts for this year: strong economic growth, high inflation and a real skills' crisis," Evan said.

"If those parameters are changing, the government will take a sober look at those issues and make a decision when we have got proper information."

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