Migration & visa related news
April 21, 2015 Australia is set to issue, for the first time, more than 5 million visas this year, presenting a range and scale of policy challenges not seen since World War II.
Surging numbers of students, tourists and workers on short-term visas mean that as many as 1.9 million foreigners are likely to be in the country at any one time over the course of 2015, according to Michael Pezzullo, Secretary of the Department of Immigration.
The number of traditional permanent migrants is also surging, with this year's intake likely to surpass the existing record of 185,000, which was set in 1969.
"We face no less a set of challenges than our predecessors did in the aftermath of the Second World War," said Mr Pezzullo, in a speech at the Australian National University.
He pointed to a rapid shift in the ethnic composition of new migrants away from Europe towards east and southern Asia.
The number of Chinese-born Australians has more than tripled to almost 450,000 in the space of two decades, he said.
Those born in India have risen more than four-fold in that time, to almost 400,000.
Those numbers compare to about 1.2 million born in Britain and more than 600,000 in New Zealand, as part of an overall foreign-born population of 6.6 million.
The huge influx means a higher proportion of the population was born overseas than at any time since the gold rushes of the 19th century.
"This is equivalent to a migrant-to-population share of almost 28 per cent," said Mr Pezzullo. "And the composition of that population is changing in ways that the proponents of 'White Australia' could never have imaged."
George Megalogenis, who has written a book and produced a documentary linking Australia's economic success to its immigration program, said ethnic groups that had been at war in their home countries had consistently proven they could live peacefully side-by-side in Australia.
He pointed to Croats and Serbs, Vietnamese and Chinese, and different groups of Muslim migrants.
He said the recent spate of terrorism-related arrests should not affect Australia's attitudes to Muslim migration any more than the Martin Bryant massacre should affect mainland attitudes towards Tasmania.
"The question of people bringing old-country disputes to Australia is as old as Australia itself," he said.
And Mr Pezzullo pointed to his department's "ever-improving capabilities for real-time data fusion and analytics, intelligence-based profiling and targeting of high-risk border movements".
"Such capabilities will increasingly allow us to minimise our interventions in relation to low-risk border movements, and concentrate our firepower where it can make the most difference," said Mr Pezzullo.
He also noted a profound shift towards skilled migrants, which was carefully targeted to meet the nation's economic needs.
"If a nation's immigration programme is well crafted and targeted, and migrants enjoy high levels of economic participation, as distinct from high levels of social exclusion and welfare-dependency, immigration has beneficial impacts in terms of growth in the demand for goods and services; increases in national income, and living standards; improved labour participation; expansion of the economy's productive capacity; and growth in household consumption and public revenues," Mr Pezzullo said.
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