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Monday, 16 March 2009
Page: 2645

Ms VAMVAKINOU (2:31 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. Minister, what steps is the government taking with respect to skilled migration in response to job losses due to the global financial crisis?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the member for Calwell for her question. The current skilled migration numbers, set in May 2008, address the critical skill shortages that Australia was confronted with after 11 years of disgraceful neglect of skills training by the former Liberal government. After an extraordinary period of growth Australia is now entering a new and challenging period, of course caused by international events from which Australia cannot be immune. As a result, the outlook for employment in this country has changed dramatically.

As a government, we believe in action in the face of this grim outlook. In addition to our stimulus packages, the government have also decided to reduce the number of skilled migrants places available in the 2008-09 intake. We have done this to protect local jobs while ensuring that employers can access skilled professionals in industries that are still experiencing shortages. In addition to cutting the number of skilled migration places, we have also removed building and metal manufacturing trades from the critical skills list. This decision has been made in response to the recent contraction in the mining and construction sectors. The list will now comprise mainly health and medical, engineering and IT professions. The government, business and industry all agree that Australia still needs to maintain a skilled migration program but one that is more targeted so that migrant workers are meeting skill shortages and not competing with locals for jobs. It is one step of many that we are taking to respond to the global financial crisis and to seek to cushion the effects on Australian families and the Australian economy.

This step comes on top of our investment in helping support Australian jobs from the worst impacts of the global recession and global financial crisis, including our $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan, our $10.4 billion economic security strategy, our $6.3 billion New Car Plan for Australia, our $4.7 billion National Building Package, our $300 million to support local government infrastructure and our $15.1 billion COAG package which was predominantly focused on schools and hospitals. The government stands ready to take further action as necessary but has taken these actions to support Australians in these difficult times.