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Political Winds Begin to Blow Against Migration

Posted on 2 March, 2017 at 1:40 Comments comments (0)

Today's Australian media carried the news that the Government has moved to stop 457 skilled migration for positions with fast food chains.  The popular media has supported this move, saying that such migration was taking jobs away from young Australians.


But neither this Government policy nor the subsequent media commentary should come as no surprise.  The developed world has seen distinct anti-migration sentiment in recent times,as demonstrated by for example Britain's exit from the European Union and the election as President of Donald Trump in the United States.


Australia is no different, with the increasing popularity of politicians with an anti-migration stance, such as Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party. Even mainstream politics is reacting to this sentiment, including the Federal Liberal/National Coalition Government, and the Labor Opposition.




Hence today's announcement was quite predictable.  But is it the thin end of the wedge, with more restrictions on immigration soon to be announced?


One would hope not, as immigration has been crucial to Australia's economic and social development.  During my almost 4 years as NSW Deputy Premier, I introduced a new State Migration Strategy, which gave greater emphasis to "high value" migrants, including investors, entrepreneurs, businesspeople and skilled migrants.  This policy has no doubt boosted the NSW economy, now easily the strongest performing economy in the nation.


But oftentimes, politics triumphs over good policy, so further restrictions on migration are in my view likely.  The upshot for those considering migrating to Australia is that they should not delay their decisions for too long.

BRIC Index Has Outlived Its Usefulness

Posted on 24 September, 2016 at 10:30 Comments comments (1)

The "BRIC" (Brazil, Russia, India and China) index of markets has outlived its usefulness, according to a report by Ogilvy and Mather.


The report highlights a shift to South Asia as the epicentre of future economic growth, as indicated by middle class consumer growth.  The report states that the middle class across countries including China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar, Pakistan and Bangladesh, will grow by 1 billion people over the next decade.



The implications for Australia in terms of trade and investment are profound, as Australia is part of the same geographic region as this epicentre of middle class consumer growth.  Australian business therefore needs to become aware of not only this shift in patterns of global economic growth, but also of the sheer scale of this market growth.


Foreign Investment Review Board Decision on NSW Power Assets Sends Wrong Message

Posted on 12 August, 2016 at 5:10 Comments comments (0)

The decision of the Australian Federal Government's Foreign Investment Review Board to disallow the partial lease of one of the New South Wales electricity networks, Ausgrid, by Chinese bidders including State Grid, sends the wrong message regarding foreign investment into Australia.


Modern Australia has been built upon foreign investment; the infrastructure needed for a geographically large but young nation has always required investment from abroad.  The long terms leases of NSW's electricity distribution assets were deliberately intended to continue this process.  The approximately AUD $20 billion raised from leasing a significant proportion of the NSW electricity distribution network companies, was to pay for improvements to the State's transport, water, power and other critical infrastructure needs, upon which economic growth would then ensue.


The NSW Government (of which I was part until April 2015), rightly encouraged bidders from around the world, in order to maximise the value of the assets in the eventual transaction.  And it was no surprise that Chinese enterprises, well-versed in the provision of electricity to large numbers of customers in a geographically large nation were amongst the bidders.  Indeed, such bids were welcomed by the NSW Government and ultimately proved to rank very highly in terms of the Government's criteria for the transaction.


Importantly, these bids required a very significant amount of time and expense, which would have been considered justified by the enterprises in view of the NSW Government's stance in encouragiing and welcoming all offshore bids.




So for the Federal Government's Foreign Investment Review Board to reject the Chinese bids at the 11th hour before contracts were signed, sends a bad message, not only to China, but to other prospective large-scale foreign investors.


If there are indeed important national security issues at stake with the Chinese bids for the NSW electricity assets, these should have been communicated to the NSW Government and the prospective bidders long before they commenced the onerous and costly process of compiling their bids.


The consequences of this lack of inter-govermental co-ordination, in terms of the Australia-China relationship, and indeed our reputation with other foreign investors, are profound, and will take some time to resolve.






Skilled/Qualified Migration Categories (457, 186, 187) under scrutiny

Posted on 19 January, 2016 at 19:40 Comments comments (1)

The need for professional Human Resources companies to facilitate real, high quality jobs for skilled and qualified Australian migration categories (186, 187 and 457) has never been greater.


Recent cases, including a Sydney restaurant alleged to have significantly underpaid workers on visas (see below) have drawn considerable media attention in Australia, and no doubt have caught the eye of the Federal Government, particularly the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and the Fair Work Ombudsman.  In addition, the Australian trade union movement, which is opposed to these visa categories, and their political wing, the Australian Labor Party, watch such cases carefully, in order to help justify their anti- skilled immigration policies.




In addition to this, just last month the Federal Government introduced new rules and associated offences relating to schemes whereby a visa applicant pays money to an employer to be then used as the applicant's wages (ie., they effectively pay themselves).


As more cases of abuse (and even innocent mistakes) of these visa categories are reported in the media, there is a real risk that broader public opposition to skilled migration may ensue.  Should this occur, the Government will be forced to respond with further crackdowns and quite possibly the withdrawal of some visa categories.


Australian Immigration and Industrial Relations laws are highly complex, and as I have outlined above, the stakes are high, including cancellation of visas, criminal sanctions including jail terms, and the imposition of further restrictions on immigration.


That's why I am proud to be associated with China HR Australia, which helps skilled visa applicants to find real, high quality jobs, and insodoing, ensures that all Australian laws including Industrial and Immigration legislation, are fully complied with.


For further information on China HR Australia's professional Human Resources services, see http://www.chinahr.com.au



New Entrepreneurs' Visa Welcome but Some Way Off

Posted on 6 December, 2015 at 14:30 Comments comments (0)

A new entrepreneurs' visa announced today by the Australian Government as part of a raft of innovation policies is a welcome development, however it is not likely to become law until at least 2017.


This is because the innovation policies are to be taken to the next Federal election, which is not due until November 2016.  Assuming the Turnbull Government is re-elected (which at this stage is likely, given the poor standing of the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in the polls), legislation for the new visa would probably not be debated in the Parliament until the Autumn session in 2017.




Details on the new visa are at this stage sketchy, apart from mooted relaxed immigration requirements for entrepreneurs who bring innovative businesses to Australia. At this stage it is also not known whether the new visa category will replace an existing visa category, for example the 132(b) business innovation visa.


What is known however is that the Turnbull Government has placed innovation and proactive immigration policies high on their agenda.


Huge Opportunities for Aussie Businesses in Next Phase of China Economy

Posted on 18 October, 2015 at 21:30 Comments comments (0)

There are huge opportunities for Australian businesses as the China economy transitions from growth led by infrastructure development and manufacturing activity, to an economy led by cashed up consumers.


A new report commissioned by the ANZ Bank, "Sleeping Giant: China Consumer", concludes that a near quadrupling of disposable incomes in China's urban areas over the next 15 years will transform China's economy, with positive ramifications for its major trading partners, including Australia.


In particular, the report identifies the tourism, education, financial services, healthcare and food and beverage sectors as being in the box seat for the opportunites provided by increased Chinese consumer spending.




Daily Telegraph, 14.10.15


Fortuitously, these sectors in Australia are set to become more competitive for exports to China vis a vis other export nations, as a result of the removal and dimunition of tariffs and levies by the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA).


Despite the recent and continuing trend of decline in the value of resources exports to China, the total value of exports from Australia to China is forecast to rise from $130 billion in 2014 to $250 billion in 2030.


But it won't just happen by itself.  Australian businesses need to seize these once-in-a-generation opportunities by becomin export-ready and proactively seeking out potential business partners in China.





















Finally, Movement on the ChAFTA, but Greater Urgency Needed

Posted on 13 October, 2015 at 23:25 Comments comments (0)

After months languishing in the Australian Parliament, it seems the ratification of the Australia China Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) will finally happen.


Reports in today's press indicate that Bill Shorten's Labor Party, having blocked the passage of the ChAFTA to date, have now put forward conditions to the Government in exchange for their support. The conditions include increasing the minimum wage for 457 visas from $53,000 to $57,000 per annum and amending the Migration Act to force employers with projects over $150 million to seek domestic workers before accepting any foreign labour.





Apart from demonstrating Labor's ignorance of the realities of business (Can they afford an extra $4,000 p.a.? Will 457 employees be immediately productive in a new culture with an unfamiliar language?), their conditions also demonstrate the ALP's preference for politics over good policy. Federal Trade & Investment Minister Andrew Robb had this to say: "the Opposition is looking for comfort through the introductions of provisions that in fact already exist".


Already the delay in ratifiying the ChAFTA has cost the Australian economy hundreds of millions of dollars, so assurances that it will be done by Christmas fall well short of what is needed. It is already mid October and Christmas is more than 2 months away. Every stop must be pulled out by the Government to ensure the ChAFTA passes both Houses of Parliament as a matter of urgency.


Greater Effort by Turnbull Government Needed on ChAFTA

Posted on 8 October, 2015 at 19:35 Comments comments (0)

It's nice that the Federal Government has taken out advertisements in the major Australian newspapers in support of the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA)




However, nice is just not good enough. The hard reality is the ChAFTA has been languishing for months in the Australian Parliament, whilst Australian exporters continue to miss out on trade deals with China due to the continuation of export tarfiffs and duties which many other countries exporters do not have to face.


That means the Australian economy is not performing as well as it ought, and industry sectors including agribusiness, coal, pharmacueticals and cosmetics, and services like finance and engineering, are not producing new jobs for Australians like they should.


New Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must take the lead on getting the ChAFTA ratified by the Australian Parliament as a matter of urgency. Media advertising might help win the public over, but that is not where the problem lies. The problem sits with Bill Shorten and his Parliamentary Labor Party, who have blocked the passage of the ChAFTA.


Now is the time for Malcolm Turnbull to pick up the phone to Bill Shorten and to cross-bench MP's in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and to use his considerable powers of persuasion to get the ChAFTA endorsed by the Parliament.  Advertisements might be nice, but the ChAFTA is of such significance to Australia's future, it's time for real leadership.

Turnbull Cabinet Positive for Asia - Australia Economic Relationship

Posted on 21 September, 2015 at 4:20 Comments comments (0)

The new Turnbull Cabinet will be positive for the economic relationship between Asia and Australia.


It is a balanced Cabinet, with Ministers from both the right and left wings of the Government, has experience, is younger and has a higher proportion of women.


The new Treasurer, Scott Morrison, has a track record as a good performer in difficult portfolios, and importantly is a good communicator to the broader public.


A key for the economic relationship with Asia is the retention of the very competent Andrew Robb in Trade and Investment and Julie Bishop in Foreign Affairs.


Of particular note are two new portfolios, International Development and The Pacific; and Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, given to two rising stars in the government, Stephen Ciobo and Josh Frydenberg respectively. Ciobo's portfolio will help government focus upon the Asia Pacific region and Frydenberg's will support industry sectors of importance to Asia - resources and agriculture.


The move of Water to The Nationals Barnaby Joyce's portfolio is an indication that the need for consistent productivity in Australian agriculture is also understood by the new govenrnent.



That said, the new Prime Minister must lead from the front in demonstrating that the Asia/Australia relationship is a priority for his government. His strong economic background would suggest that he would understand its importance to Australia's economic future. The ratification of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement must be his first priority in this regard.


He would do well to take a leaf out of Tony Abbott's book in terms of relationship building.  As Prime Minister, Abbott traveled extensively to our major Asian trading partners, and gave high priority to Free Trade Agreements and fora like the recent Bo'ao Forum held in Sydney.


These are early days, however the indications are that Malcolm Turnbull's new Cabinet has the right structure and the right personnel for the task ahead - to build upon the strong economic and cultural relationship with Asia, and particularly China.

New Government Good for Economy, Australia/China Business

Posted on 18 September, 2015 at 20:15 Comments comments (0)

The new Federal Coalition Government led by Malcolm Turnbull will provide a much needed boost to the Australian economy, and will be positive for the Australia/China business relationship.


Whilst the Liberal/Nationals Government led by Tony Abbott had made significant strides on economic policy and towards strengthening the Australia/China relationship, particularly with the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), it failed to capture majority public support, as seen in a succession of polls on voting intentions.


In fact, the polls consistently pointed towards a Labor victory at the next Federal election, to be held before November 2016. This poor standing in the polls in turn weakened the then Prime Minister Abbott's standing within his own Party, leading to reports of dissatisfaction amongst his Members of Parliament, and general perceptions of instability within the Government.


This in turn lead to low levels of business and consumer confidence, reflected in weak economic growth in Australia.




The change of leadership to Malcolm Turnbull has already seen a significant improvement of the Coalition Government's standing in the polls and some early signs of improved business confidence.  This situation will help to reinforce the stability and therefore electoral popularity of the Turnbull Government, helping to further stimulate business and consumer confidence and therefore the broader Australian economy.


Of course, Governments require more than one term of office to implement their long term policy agendas, particularly when it comes to economic policy, so the strong likelihood that the Federal Coalition Government will have at least two (2) terms in office rather than just one (1), is a big positive for the Australian economy over the longer term.


This also applies to Australia's relationship with its largest trading partner, China. It is now very likely that the strengthening of the economic and cultural relationships pursued by both nations, as seen in the ChAFTA and other initiatives like direct currency conversion and Sydney's advent as an offshore trading hub in the RMB, will continue apace.


Had the Coalition lost the coming election as had been predicted in the polls prior to Malcolm Turnbull's elevation, it is likely that the strengthening of the China/Australia relationship would have lost pace. Former trade union leader Bill Shorten's Labor Party has been less than supportive of the ChAFTA, and has consistently reflected negative union views towards migration of skilled workers from China (eg. 457 visas).


So regardless of one's views of the removal of Tony Abbott from the position of Prime Minister, there is little doubt that the new Turnbull Government will help facilitate a stronger Australian economy and continued strengthening of the China/Australia relationship.


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