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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.”

 

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Australian softball squad leaves for Tokyo Olympics, among first athletes to travel to Japan for Games

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The Aussie Spirit, the Australian women’s softball team, will be among the first athletes to arrive in Japan for the Tokyo Olympics after leaving Sydney on Monday.

The squad of 23 will arrive in Ota City for a training camp before facing Japan on July 21, a game that marks the start of official Olympic competition two days before the opening ceremony.
Having not faced an international opponent since February last year, the Aussie Spirit, which has won a medal in each of its past Olympic appearances, will also play against professional softball clubs in Japan, as well as two games against the Japanese national team, before the Olympics get underway.
“We’ve done so much training over the last year, we’ve had intra-squad camps against one another, now we finally get to play some really tough competition against Japanese clubs,” said squad member Jade Wall.
Earlier this month, Australia started to vaccinate its Olympic and Paralympic athletes with the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 shot.
Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll said at the time that getting a vaccine was not compulsory but “highly, highly recommended.”
Softball is returning to the Olympics having been removed from the program after the 2008 Games.
It’s one of a number of sports added to the Olympics ahead of Tokyo, alongside sport climbing, surfing, skateboarding and karate.
“All staff and players heading to Japan today are fully vaccinated thanks to the Australian Olympic Committee,” said Softball Australia CEO David Pryles.
“They’ll also be undergoing stringent testing and checks as soon as they land at the airport and throughout their camp and Olympic fixtures.
“Movements in Japan are restricted to the one level of the team hotel in Ota where they will complete gym work, meetings, meals and, of course, relaxing amongst themselves.”
In the past few weeks, there has been mounting pressure in Japan for the Games to be canceled amid the pandemic, although International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound recently told CNN that a cancellation is “essentially off the table.”

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Australia resists calls for tougher climate targets

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Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has resisted pressure to set more ambitious carbon emission targets while other major nations vowed deeper reductions to tackle climate change.

Addressing a global climate summit, Mr Morrison said Australia was on a path to net zero emissions.

But he stopped short of setting a timeline, saying the country would get there “as soon as possible”.

It came as the US, Canada and Japan set new commitments for steeper cuts.

US President Joe Biden, who chaired the virtual summit, pledged to cut carbon emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by the year 2030. This new target essentially doubles the previous US promise.

By contrast, Australia will stick with its existing pledge of cutting carbon emissions by 26%-28% below 2005 levels, by 2030. That’s in line with the Paris climate agreement, though Mr Morrison said Australia was on a pathway to net zero emissions.

“Our goal is to get there as soon as we possibly can, through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate them and the jobs and livelihoods they support and create,” he told the summit.

“Future generations… will thank us not for what we have promised, but what we deliver.”

Australia is one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters on a per capita basis. Mr Morrison, who has faced sustained criticism over climate policy, said action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would focus on technology.

The prime minister said Australia is deploying renewable energy 10 times faster than the global average per person, and has the highest uptake of rooftop solar panels in the world.

Mr Morrison added Australia would invest $20bn ($15.4bn; 11.1bn) “to achieve ambitious goals that will bring the cost of clean hydrogen, green steel, energy storage and carbon capture to commercial parity”.

“You can always be sure that the commitments Australia makes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are bankable.”

Australia has seen growing international pressure to step up its efforts to cut emissions and tackle global warming. The country has warmed on average by 1.4 degrees C since national records began in 1910, according to its science and weather agencies. That’s led to an increase in the number of extreme heat events, as well as increased fire danger days.

Ahead of the summit, President Biden’s team urged countries that have been slow to embrace action on climate change to raise their ambition. While many nations heeded the call, big emitters China and India also made no new commitments.

“Scientists tell us that this is the decisive decade – this is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” President Biden said at the summit’s opening address.

Referring to America’s new carbon-cutting pledge, President Biden added: “The signs are unmistakable, the science is undeniable, and the cost of inaction keeps mounting.”

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-56854558

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Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms

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The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.

The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.

All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.

It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.

British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.

The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.

The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.

It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.

“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.

“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.

It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128

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