16 Dec

Australia-UK bond ‘under threat’ from Britain’s ‘discriminatory’ visa and migration policies: DFAT report

By CHARLES MIRANDA in LondonNews Corp Australia Network

BRITAIN’S love affair with Australian workers is officially over with the “unique” bond between the two countries undermined by “discriminatory” immigration policies that next year will see thousands of workers forced to leave the UK.

That’s the damning conclusion of a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade report into a new tranche of UK visa rules set to come into effect next year that the Australian Government has already warned would cause “structural damage” to formal relations between the two countries.

A summary of the report, obtained by News Corp Australia, pointed to widespread disenchantment among Australian directed or related businesses operating in the UK.

More than half of 100 businesses surveyed, staffed with between 10 and 10,000 staff, said visa rule changes would directly impact planned investment in the UK while two-thirds of respondents said it would “significantly impact their ability and willingness to recruit Australians”.

“The UK’s visa changes are making this country a less welcoming destination for Australians,” the Australian High Commission signed report states.

“This potentially harms the UK’s image and reputation in Australia, and might even in the long term undermine the unique Australia-UK bond.”

As previously reported, in 2011 the British Government closed certain skilled worker visas and capped other at just 20,000 positions for all nations from outside the European Union.

The move came after the EU’s open borders saw a dramatic rise of skilled or semi-skilled workers flood the UK, particularly from eastern European nations.

Next year UK worker restrictions are to be further tightened and extended to intra-company transfers, spouses right to work and see levies implemented.

There has been a 50 per cent drop in Australian migration between 1999 and 2011, to just 26,000 people with another 14 per cent drop in the past four years.

The Australian Government has formally protested the move in a rare strongly worded diplomatic missive from High Commissioner Alexander Downer to Whitehall and Westminster’s Migration Advisory Committee.

Mr Downer ordered a survey of business in the UK to be down to make his case.

The Australian racing industry in the UK responded claiming it was suffering “dramatic staff shortages” that could not be filled locally while another firm said employees were shifting their work to New York where visas were easier to obtain.

Unlike for other nationalities, if a UK firm hires an Australian, that person has to return to Australia to obtain a visa or to switch visas.

“The UK’s refusal to allow in-country switching deters employers and discriminates against Australians,” the survey concluded.

Ironically, the report’s findings concluded last week came as the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales warned economic growth would slow as business investment stalled and costs in the construction sector expected to rise due predominantly to a skills shortage and an increase in pay growth beyond other major sectors.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who studied in Melbourne in his youth, said he would be taking the case up with Prime Minister David Cameron for Australia’s unique position in UK history to be recognised.

“The Mayor has long argued for a fair but firm visa system that attracts talented people from across the world to come to London to live and work,” a spokesman said.

“He believes that Commonwealth citizens should be given more freedom to contribute to London’s economy, culture and communities, particularly given the strong cultural connections between our countries. As a start, the Mayor has proposed an agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom that allows greater movement of skilled people between both countries in order to address skills shortages. This could be extended further to other Commonwealth countries, if successful.”

This article can be found here.

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