Craig Emerson

A senior member of the Australian Government has re-opened the ‘big Australia’ debate calling for an increase in net migration to fuel economic growth.

The Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson yesterday released a 17-page economic position paper on preparing the Australian economy for the “Asian century”.

The paper called for an increase in targeted Australian immigration in order to thwart the threat to exports posed by labour and skills shortages.

“Australia’s sparkling future in the Asian century will require higher levels of temporary and permanent immigration as shortages of skills and general labour choke off the country’s capacity to expand in exports and domestic economy,” Dr Emerson said.

“If Australia’s 2020 vision is to be realised, a rational debate about immigration levels will need to occur”.

The comments indicate the Minister’s support for the policy of ‘big Australia’ championed by the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and a diversion from the current PM Julia Gillard’s stated position of supporting a “sustainable Australia, not a big Australia”.

Dr Emerson said his comments are not inconsistent with official government policy as an increase in immigration was already stipulated in this year’s federal budget.

Thanks to the folks at the Visa Bureau who helped contribute this article.