Australian Leader wants higher levels of skilled immigration

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Australia's Prime Minister John Howard has said the number of skilled immigrants should be increased to counter labour shortages, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports.

In a radio interview on March 3, Mr. Howard stated that more skilled workers are needed and that more immigration to Australia could be the solution. There is speculation that the skilled migrant intake could rise by 20,000 in the next financial year.

"If part of the solution to that problem is to bring in more skilled migrants then I'm in favour of it and we will look at that issue very closely in the very near future," the prime minister said.

The opposition Labour Party says it also favours higher levels of immigration, but that the Government should also do more to train local workers.

"What I don't believe is that we should be using migration to substitute for a sensible government investment in skills," said opposition leader Kim Beazley.

Employers First, a lobby group for employers, said that it supports the increase of 20,000 in the skilled migration intake. According to the group's Chief Executive Gary Brack, this would take the pressure off the labour market and ease wage inflation, thereby helping Australia to continue its long period of economic growth.