Immigration

Unions, business join forces on migration

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The Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Industry Group have joined forces to urge the government to maintain permanent migration levels.

Unions and big business have teamed up to oppose any cut to Australia's permanent migration, arguing the program's numbers must be maintained.

In a rare alliance, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Industry Group have co-signed a national compact on permanent migration.

The compact, outlined in a full-page newspaper advertisement, said permanent migration has been central to Australia's development and will be critical to the nation's future.

"We support the current planning levels for the permanent migration program and encourage future programs to maintain a level proportional to the population," the statement reads.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government had no plans to change the permanent migration cap of 190,000 people a year.

"We have made it very clear we're not proposing to reduce that 190,000 number but it is a ceiling, it's not a target," Senator Cormann told Sky News.

He said the key to migration was attracting the right mix of people who were committed to making a contribution to Australia.

Migrant groups, the Australian Council of Social Service and the United Voice union have also signed the compact.

The ACTU released a five-point plan on Thursday, arguing for permanent migration to be favoured and temporary work visas only to be used in genuine skill shortages.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten echoed those calls, noting the 1.6 million people on visas with temporary work rights.

"That's an awfully big number," Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.

"That means our own young people are not getting the incentive to be trained because it's too easy for some employers not to give young Aussies a go, but just to borrow guest labour from overseas."

Labor plans to revise the 457 visa system, which it says the federal government has let run amok.

Permanent migration numbers have been the subject of heated debate within the government.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has been leading the charge, arguing that reduced migration levels would help drive down housing prices.

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