Home' Charter : 0711 Charter July Contents July 2011 I Charter 33
Auckland and then come back and
apply onshore, which is stupid.
CHARTER: What about claims this year
that budget cuts would trigger an exodus
of talented medical researchers?
RG: Well, I’m afraid that’s tough luck. We
can’t spend an absolute fortune specialising
in every sub-specialty in science just to
ensure there is a relative handful of the
very brightest of our young scientists who
don’t think that their career prospects and
their prospects of getting a Nobel Prize
will be a lot better if they were working
in a laboratory in Cambridge or America
somewhere. We’re a small country, we can’t
specialise in everything.
Part of the price we pay for the sensible
policy that we don’t try to be great at
everything is that some of our very bright
people will leave. As a general proposition,
I think we need to be spending more on
universities and research and development.
But economists do have an argument
that scientists never like and that is to say
the main gains we can make out of R&D
is free riding on the R&D that is done in
other countries, because we can adopt
it fairly cheaply.
away from the very big negative incentive
Which is where they might say: ‘We in the
private sector won’t try very hard to train
people because we know if skills shortages
emerge, we’ll just run to the government
and the government will bring in all these
As long as you’ve got that out, why would
you waste money on training? We’ve got to
do something about that.
We’ve got to make sure that our people get
as well trained as possible and that Australian
workers get as much beneft out of our boom
as they can.
CHARTER: Is skilled migration the key to
BS: Yes, very much so. Skilled migration can
offset the impact of the numbers we lose and
also it’s very effcient if you can attract skilled
migrants, say, in their 20s. In that case, you
have not had to pay for their primary school/
secondary school/tertiary education. They
come here fully qualifed, ft and ready and
can go into the workplace. That, to me, is a
good deal for Australia.
RG: I think we probably can’t avoid it. But
the other thing is when we bring in skilled
people from abroad, we bring them in from
developing countries such as India and China.
I think we have to consider the moral
implications of that and not just say ‘You
beaut! Great business deal!’. I know it’s not
fashionable to talk about ethical issues but
I don’t think it’s very ethical of us to have a
policy that says when poor countries get good
people, we pinch them.
CHARTER: How should the government
ensure the right mix of migrant skills?
KS: It’s not for the government to ensure that,
all we can do is improve immigration and free
it up and make sure people are able to get
into the country.
We’ve moved out of the situation where the
government can control the economy. This was
recognised when the government did not set a
population target, it’s simply trying to cope with
the problems of an expanding population.
It’s not saying that, by the year 2050 we
want to have a certain number of Australians.
So there is a recognition that we can’t do
as we did after World War II and take a
much more interventionist approach to the
But what we can do is recognise business
as the major driver of economic change and
work out what business needs to ensure that
it continues to grow.
CHARTER: Are there any other
considerations with skilled migration?
BS: I think it’s very important and I think it’s
something that should be taken a lot further.
The issue here is the imminent retirement of
the baby boomers. When they start to exit
the workforce, then the numbers needed at
the other end – that is, people in their 20s –
will need to increase substantially because all
of a sudden those baby boomers will exit at
a faster rate than Gen Ys can enter. So that’s
where you need to up the ante and ramp up
skilled, and even unskilled, migration.
KS: The Department of Immigration needs
to improve the way it’s handling skilled
migration. The applications take too long
to process – we don’t come across as a
very friendly country in terms of handling
the applications and probably could
make it easier for people to come
into the country.
I think you should put on more
staff in the department to process the
applications more quickly and probably
make it easier for people to come
into the country if they are skilled.
CHARTER: How would that work?
KS: We take in about 170,000 people a year
– about half are family reunions and the other
half are skilled migrants. We’ve got these
two categories and we recognise there’s a
need for skilled migrants and businesses in
Australia advertise for them.
So what happens is a young backpacker,
who’s here for a year, might work for up
to six months with one employer and then
go off to look at Ayers Rock or whatever.
Employers fgure people such as these are
talented individuals and therefore should
be allowed to apply onshore to work in the
company. That’s where delays occur – there
are problems for people applying while
onshore. Because when you apply to come
to Australia, one of the undertakings you sign
is that you won’t try to stay.
Some of us would argue we should be a
bit more liberal on that point and perhaps
give people the opportunity to apply to
stay for two-plus-two years’ , which is the
current working arrangement for skilled
And while they’re working here as a skilled
migrant, if it works out, we could allow them
to stay on as permanent residents, allowing
them to apply onshore – without them having
to leave the country to go to a place such as
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