Immigration essential to manufacturers

ASX and Coca-Cola chairman David Gonski has criticised Australia’s immigration policy saying increasing the nation’s population is essential for future economic development.

At Bond University’s Titans of Industry business forum, Gonski declared the Federal Government’s stance on immigration ‘small-minded’ and a reform could bring offshore manufacturing back to Australia.

“We are a very small country with enormous resources and could afford to increase our population,” says Gonski.

“I’m not advocating low-cost labour coming from unskilled immigrants, but it is a little naive sitting here in this little paradise.

“Coca-Cola got stronger by selling to an enormous market in America and we need to build a bigger market in Australia to become more sustainable in the future.”

Gonski’s views were backed by other business leaders at the forum, in particular Amalgamated Property Group managing director Barry Morris, who asserted ‘we need to open up our shores’.

“We are spending a huge amount of resources offshore due to lower labour costs,” says Morris.

“The only way to get lower cost of labour is to increase immigration.
“It’s what’s happening all around the world and it could happen in Australia if we free up our labour systems and make it more free enterprise-based.”

Pacific Brands CEO Sue Morphet agrees that Australia has a labour shortage but says the nation needs to focus on what the future holds with China.

“China’s increasing standards of living means workers will demand higher wages forcing prices to increase and lower level manufacturing will shift to less developed nations,” she says.

Morphet, who recently sent the majority of Pacific Brands manufacturing to Asia, says Australia cannot compete with cheap overseas labour and needs to take advantage of what resources it has.

“We are a global community and low-level manufacturing is developing nations’ key to the game.

“We have a vast land and need to look to the long term to see what we can do to add value and completely absorb our intellectual capacity.”

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