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Ben Packham

February 24, 2009 12:00am

THE Rudd Government is poised to announce a major cut to the nation’s immigration intake to protect Australian jobs.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the global financial crisis would slash demand for labour and the need to import foreign workers. “The Rudd Labor Government’s clear policy is to provide opportunities to Australians first in the labour market,” he said.

A record 190,300 migrants were allowed in this financial year because of the rapidly growing economy. But unemployment is tipped to hit 7 per cent midway through next year, pushing 300,000 Australians on to the dole queue. “The economic situation confronting us at this next Budget will be almost the reverse — reducing inflation, reducing demand for labour,” Senator Evans said. “I expect the numbers of our program to drop next year . . . as a reaction to economic circumstances.”

Occupations such as chef and hairdresser had been struck from the nation’s critical skills list but workers in key fields such as health would always be needed.

Accountants, IT professionals, engineers, pharmacists, plumbers and motor mechanics are also in demand. ACTU president Sharan Burrow said trimming the quota was a good idea. “Australia was built on the backs of migrant workers,” she said. “But in the current climate, we need to be careful there are jobs for all. “It is prudent for the Government to review the intake of skilled migrants so labour demand can be matched to supply to protect jobs.” But she said the Government should proceed cautiously, given Australia was struggling with skills shortages less than 12 months ago.

A final decision on the 2008-09 immigration intake will be made by Cabinet ahead of the May Budget. Senator Evans said about half those granted permanent residency each year were already in Australia as students or temporary skilled workers.

The move to cut the intake follows a Monash University report calling for immigration to be slashed. Dr Bob Birrell said the Government’s economic stimulus plan was in danger of being compromised.

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25097305-662,00.html

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