Sunday, January 18, 2009

Make skilled migration cut for environment: ACF

By Online parliamentary correspondent Emma Rodgers

Posted 11 hours 12 minutes ago

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has urged the Federal Government to make a "substantial reduction" to its skilled migration program in this year's Budget.

In its Budget submission to Treasury, the ACF says that if current migration levels continue they would contribute to a tripling of Australia's population by the end of the century.

The ACF argues that the projected population growth would make it more costly for the country to meet its emissions reduction targets, placing a high burden on "already stretched" urban infrastructure and ecological systems.

The Government has committed to cutting emissions levels by 5 to 15 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020, and 60 per cent by 2050.

The ACF says the Government must study the environmental implications of a growing population, including growth contributed by its migrant intake.

"The projected population growth attributable in part to such high migration levels will make it increasingly difficult for Australia to meet sustainability goals," the submission says.

"For instance, part of the justification offered by the Government for a 5 to 15 per cent carbon target is the impact that rising population will have on our emissions profile".

In a bid to ease a shortage of skilled workers in some industries, the Government increased the number of skilled migration places by 31,000 to a total of 133,500 places in the 2008-2009 Budget.

The total of the migration program for 2008-2009 is 190,300 places, which is an increase of 37,500 places on 2007-2008 levels.

However in December, Immigration Minister Chris Evans announced the Government was revising the skilled migration program for the first half of this year in the wake of the global financial crisis.

"The overwhelming message is that we need to maintain a skilled migration program but one that is more targeted," Mr Evans said.

"The existing 133 500 planning target will remain as a ceiling, with the actual number of visas granted to be kept under review for the remainder of 2008-09."

Mr Evans has also indicated that the Government would take a more longer-term approach to setting Australia's migration levels which would also be more holistic.

The ACF wants the Government to conduct explicit modelling of the impacts of the migration program on carbon pollution in its development of a long-term population policy.

"To ensure that the migration program truly is in Australia's interest, a long-term population policy should be established which stabilises Australia's population in the long term at an ecologically sustainable level," the submission says.

"The policy should be formulated in light of the environmental impacts of increasing population and sustainable development, rather than the current focus on short-term industry and economic objectives."

The submission also calls for the establishment of a sustainability charter and commission and for funds already allocated to saving the Murray-Darling to be fast tracked.

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