While the media continues to scrutinise the Australian immigration program, recently at a Melbourne Mining Club conference, Shell Australia chairman Andrew Smith, emphasised the importance of immigration in boosting resource industry and economic growth.
Mr Smith said, ‘Often hysterical debate has surrounded Australian immigration in the new millennium. There has been a failure of industry to advocate for an immigration program that will provide economic stimulus to a sluggish economy.’
Mr Smith believes skilled labour shortages in the resources, oil and gas industries in regional areas in Australia’s north such as Broome and Gladstone provide potential for skilled migrants to contribute to growth in the resource industry and the Australian economy.
‘Today Australia’s economic growth is being driven by Melbourne and Sydney with their diverse economies. But as we strive for a more prosperous Australia, we must increase immigration levels and grow population in other areas of the nation. We must look to the economic potential of our regions and our regional centres. And this is where the mining and petroleum sectors can have a great contribution. As a leader in the resource sector, it is the ability of our industry to make a contribution outside the capitals that excites me most,’ he said.
Mr Smith stated, ‘This will only happen when we grow the population with a mix of internal and international migration to the regions’.
Mr Smith also highlighted the important role immigration plays in driving sustainable population growth to regional areas, providing incentives for the government to invest in regional community infrastructure.
Mr Smith said, ‘Just as Bendigo’s growth was fuelled by an influx of Asian immigration in the 1850s, or nearby Geelong’s growth was fuelled by Italian and Greek migration in the 1950s, the north of our nation must welcome new Australians.’
‘Industry leaders need to both advocate for a balanced mix of skilled and humanitarian migration, then back up our advocacy with meaningful decisions that contribute to legacy. It is only through population growth that economic diversity will be delivered, unlocking the potential of Australia’s north,” he said.
Mr Smith added, ‘These comments are not a call for more or less 457 visa intakes. Specialised tasks in highly technical sectors like ours will always require the temporary importation of specific skills. We have some of the planet’s most desirable mineral deposits but we will only unlock this potential, and its economic dividend, if we are able to bypass populist protectionist voices on immigration policy, and grow our population’.
Read more about recently announced policy updates to Australia’s 457 visa program.