Commission investigating merits of wealth-based Oz immigration system

The Australian government’s independent advisory body, the Productivity Commission, is investigating whether the selection criteria for the country’s current immigration system should be based on wealth rather than skills or family relations.

The issue is being looked into following a proposal made by Treasurer Joe Hockey, and will examine whether immigration caps should be scrapped in favour of allowing a price to dictate the size of the intake.

David Leyonhjelm, a Senator with Australia’s Liberal Democratic Party, has long been a supporter of a fees-based immigration system, and describes the Productivity Commission’s introductory paper to the issue as “a good introduction” to the topic.

Speaking to, Senator Leyonhjelm said: “The idea is, let’s stop choosing migrants based on all these sorts of qualitative criteria such as skills, family reunion or business-type categories and all the bureaucracy; and replace them with a tariff.

“Immigration is not a charity, and it’s not intended to help poor people. It’s intended to help Australia’s economy. Rich people don’t have a reason to come to Australia; it’s the ones who are aspirational, the ones who would like to be rich, who might say ‘Can I be more successful if I pay AUS$50,000 to come to Australia?”

However, the Productivity Commission’s introductory paper has noted that the new proposals would certainly prove controversial.

“Charging for entry may conflict with equity or fairness objectives,” the issues paper notes. “For example, under a charging regime, the family reunion intake would be determined by the willingness and capacity of the immigration (or their family in Australia) to pay the charge, rather than the period of separation of other individual circumstances of the potential immigrant.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has already told reporters today that the proposals are “unlikely” to become government policy.

The Productivity Commission is due to release draft recommendations to the government in mid-November.