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Could Australia see a migration boom after the COVID-19 pandemic?

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sbs -After more than three months of lockdown, Greater Sydney reopened its economy on Monday much to the relief of business owners, but there was one virus-induced complication threatening to take the shine off the recovery.

Since Australia shut its international borders in March last year, business and industry have been grappling with a chronic shortage of workers.

That’s prompted calls from some leaders to swiftly reopen international borders and lift migration levels in a way not seen since World War II.

In the 12 months following the closure of Australia’s international borders, Australia’s population rose by just 35,700 people according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The growth rate was just 0.1 per cent, a significant fall on the previous years.

The “annual natural increase”, comprising births and deaths among Australian residents, remained steady at 131,000 people.

But that was offset by a significant fall in net overseas migration, down to a negative figure of 95,300.

That’s a decrease of 334,600 people since the previous year.

“Not since wartime in Australia’s history, have we seen anything that even comes close to the demographic change that we’ve experienced during COVID-19,” ANU demographer Dr Liz Allen told SBS News.

Labour shortage

Australian businesses were already struggling with workforce shortages before the pandemic hit and now the ongoing border closures have aggravated the issue.

“Right across the board from unskilled [migrants] through to very highly skilled medical professionals, we realise how dependent we are as a state and as a nation on immigration,” Professor Jock Collins from the UTS Business School told SBS News.

There is pent-up demand from migrants looking to settle or return to Australia, but Dr Allen said it was unlikely the intake would bounce back to pre-COVID levels – where the population grew by over one per cent each year – in the near future.

“That spells a serious disaster for Australia and in the economy,” she warned.

“The basic needs of this country won’t be met because the local workforce is insufficient to meet the needs of our industry.”

It’s a quandary front of mind for New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet, who earlier this week spoke of his eagerness to reopen international borders.

“We need to get the borders opened up. Then we need to market to those overseas countries to get some of those skilled migrants in because if we lose this opportunity, those skilled migrants will go to other countries,” he said on Monday.

It’s a change of view from before the pandemic where his predecessor Gladys Berijiklian went to the last state election in 2019 pushing to cut immigration to the state by 50 per cent, citing growing issues with infrastructure and traffic congestion.

An “ambitious” boom?

The Australian Financial Review reported that Mr Perrottet is being asked by senior bureaucrats to set his migration sights even higher, with the figure of two million migrants over five years.

They’ve urged him to lobby for an “ambitious” immigration program, in the vein of the mass influx following World War II when Australians were given a message to “populate or perish”.

In 1945, the government was concerned the country needed a larger population to sustain its defences and economic recovery, leading to the foundation of the Federal Department of Immigration and a target to increase the population by one per cent each year.

Some 1.2 million migrants entered the country over the following 15 years, primarily from war-torn Europe, delivering an economic boost.

“These new immigrants contributed to half the job growth in the economy, half the population growth,” Professor Collins explained.

“Immigrants would arrive … straight off the boat, literally into the factory, the next day.”

He said the country was facing a similar labour shortage today – which would require a strong uptick in migration to resolve.

But a World War II-style increase would pose challenges for infrastructure and housing, with public transport, roads and the healthcare system needing to be scaled up.

“Too often in the past, governments have sort of taken the benefits of immigration while delaying the necessary public infrastructure investment to create problems down the track,” Professor Collins said.

He also cautioned against the increasing reliance on temporary visa holders to fill labour shortages, at risk of increased exploitation and wage theft.

Cultural impact

The post-war migration boom also signalled a significant shift in Australia’s cultural make-up.

The decision to take in refugees from across Europe marked the end of the preferential settlement of British nationals and the beginning of Australia’s transformation from an Anglo-centric colony to a multicultural society.

It triggered a change in perspective about migration that culminated in the removal of the White Australia Policy by the Whitlam government.

“It was the post-war immigration boom, that charted a new course for Australia. We headed away from that white monoculture … we realised that we needed to move beyond the Antipodes of our migration history and instead look to the future,” Dr Allen said.

While the post-war boom drew heavily on European immigrants, Dr Allen expects China and India to continue to contribute a sizeable share of Australia’s arrivals going forward beyond COVID.

“We will require skills in people from a range of backgrounds, labourers, professionals, and so on. [And] I suspect that we will continue to see migration from more diverse places than where we’ve historically welcomed people from,” she said.

“This moment in time, this post-COVID rebuild will be a watershed in our history.”

 

Australia

Mark McGowan ‘considering’ moving after detectives charged two young men who allegedly made threats against the WA Premier and his family

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skynews– Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan is “considering” relocating his family from their home in his electorate of Rockingham after he allegedly became the victim of beheading threats.

Detectives this week revealed two men, aged 20 and 18, have been charged after allegedly phoning Mr McGowan late on Saturday night and leaving “a number of threatening messages”.

The Premier confirmed to reporters he and his family had been allegedly threatened with beheading.

“In terms of my own family, obviously it’s not pleasant. It’s not very nice and I just urge the people doing it to stop,” he said.

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While the family has no immediate plans to move houses in the wake of the alleged threats, Mr McGowan said it is something “we’re considering”.

The incident comes amid increased threats of violence to state leaders over vaccination mandates.

Protesters in Melbourne displayed fake gallows to pretend to execute Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, while Northern Territory Chief Minister was forced to order his family to flee their home after his address was shared at an anti-vaccine rally.

Mr McGowan told reporters the alleged threats would not stop his government from encouraging vaccine uptake ahead of plans to reopen to the rest of the country.

Border restrictions will be removed within the first two months of next year when the 90 per cent double-dose target is met and showing proof of vaccination at some venues will become a requirement.

“It’s not going to change our approach, we are going to continue to work together to get West Australians vaccinated,” Mr McGowan said of the alleged threats.

“We’re going to continue with the rules we’ve put in place cause that is what is needed.

“These sorts of threats, intimidation, violence, extremism is dangerous, it’s unhelpful and it’s not going to change anything the government does.”

WA Police confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that detectives from the State Security Investigation Group have charged two men over the alleged incident on Saturday night.

“It is alleged about 10.50pm, the two men phoned the Premier and left a number of threatening messages,” the statement read.

A 20-year-old man from Canning Vale and an 18-year-old man from Harrisdale have both been charged with one count each of Acts Creating False Apprehension as to the Existence of Threats or Danger.

They have been granted bail and are now subject to strict protective bail conditions.

Both men are due to appear in Armadale Magistrates Court on Friday December 17.

Last week Mr McGowan confirmed he shut his electorate office in Rockingham, south of Perth, after repeated threats of violence against himself and a number of staff members.

“There’s been death threats, there’s been threats to rape my staff, there’s been people threatening to bomb my office,” he told reporters last Wednesday

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Perrottet Government moves to extend COVID-19 emergency powers until 2023

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skynewsThe Perrottet Government will extend the use of COVID-19 emergency powers until March 2023 after the New South Wales Health Minister pushed the proposal through Cabinet on Monday.

Cabinet approved Brad Hazzard’s proposal on Monday night which has led to backlash from some Coalition MPs, according to The Australian.

Mr Hazzard’s proposal to extend the powers comes off the back of a recommendation from Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant.

Under the state of emergency powers, the Health Minister has jurisdiction to declare Public Health Orders including restriction of movement, mask mandates, curfews and lockdowns.

The Australian has reported the Health Minister took the proposal to a party room meeting on Tuesday where multiple MPs challenged the necessity for the powers to be extended until March 2023.

It comes as NSW has surpassed the 90 per cent double dose vaccination rate, with greater freedoms being returned to fully jabbed citizens after the state hit 70 per cent and again at 80 per cent.

Greater Sydney endured more than three months of harsh lockdowns while the state boosted its vaccination rate, with the Berejiklian and Perrottet Governments linking COVID-19 jabs with greater freedoms.

The debate within Government ranks comes amid outrage in Victoria over the Andrews Government updating and changing its own emergency pandemic powers.

The Victorian Opposition Leader has argued that Victoria – which joined NSW in easing restrictions in late October – should be focussed on recovery, and the passing of the pandemic powers threatened certainty in the state.

It is understood the NSW Health Minister will address concerns with particular MPs on Tuesday in an emergency meeting.

Premier Dominic Perrottet responded to SkyNews.com.au’s request for comment and said: “Only the health provisions that need to be extended will be extended. I will be carefully considering this matter over the summer break”.

SkyNews.com.au has contacted Mr Hazzard’s office for comment.

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Mostafa Baluch: Australian fugitive arrested after massive manhunt

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bbc– A fugitive dubbed “Australia’s most wanted man” has been arrested during an elaborate attempt to cross a state border, police say.

Mostafa Baluch, 33, sparked a 17-day nationwide manhunt after allegedly cutting off an ankle bracelet which had tracked his whereabouts in Sydney.

Authorities said they pulled over a lorry after receiving a tipoff.

Mr Baluch – a suspected drug smuggler – was found in a car inside a shipping container on the lorry, police said.

Police noticed the container was not locked, and when they knocked on it, they heard someone knocking back.

“He was quite shocked – he thought he was cleverer than this,” said Detective Supt Rob Critchlow of New South Wales Police.

Officers allege Mr Baluch was trying to cross from New South Wales into Queensland when the arrest took place in the town of Tweed Heads about 01.00 local time on Wednesday (14.00 GMT Tuesday).

“Today will be considered one of the great days of NSW Police,” state Police Minister David Elliott said.

At the time he went missing, Mr Baluch was on bail on charges of attempting to import 900kg of cocaine from Ecuador.

Mr Elliott has since questioned the decision to give Mr Baluch bail. Police said an “extraordinary” amount of money had been spent on the manhunt.

Mr Baluch has been accused of having a senior position in a criminal network, and police said he posed a threat to the public while at large.

He will face a court hearing later on Wednesday.

Police said the man who was driving the lorry would face charges for allegedly assisting a fugitive.

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