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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7120

Dr SOUTHCOTT (Boothby) (13:11): I rise specifically to touch on the issue that has also been addressed by the member for Dickson, and that is the position which we see in the area of health care and social assistance. This is one of the largest groups which use 457 visas, with 12,580 subclass 457 visas as at 30 April 2013.

This has been a very important area for Australia. There is a specific carve-out for nurses in this area, where nurses often have a relevant bachelor's degree. When you look at our skilled migration program, Australia has been admired around the world for the robustness of our skilled migration program. When you travel to other countries, they know that we have a rigorous assessment. We have details of quantifications where there are shortages. How important this has been to our economy should not be underestimated.

One of the things that the Howard government did when it was elected in 1996 was to get the balance right between skilled migration and family reunion. Under the previous government, there had been too much of a focus on family reunion and not enough on the skilled migration program. When you look at the ways our economy can grow, there are basically three sources. Growth comes either from population growth, from participation or from productivity. Those are the only three ways we can see our economy grow.

Support for our skilled migration program has been very important for Australia being a prosperous economy. It has been very important in addressing the constraints to growth. We now see the Labor Party responding to their union bosses and a campaign which has been run and dictated by the unions to try to remove a very important source of economic growth, particularly in areas where people are finding it hard—where hospitals, health services and aged care are finding it hard to attract nurses under 457 visas. This is one of the problems that the opposition has with this bill.