State push for skilled migrants

VISA requirements should be relaxed to attract skilled overseas workers and investors to Tasmania, a state department has advised.

There are 150 state-sponsored places available for skilled workers to migrate to Tasmania, but only 13 people have nominated to take them up so far this financial year.

In 2011-12, only half of the spots available were filled.

Similarly, there are 17 state-sponsored spaces available to business owners or investors to migrate to Tasmania but only four applicants this financial year.

As well, money spent on marketing to attract such skilled workers and investors to Tasmania has declined.

In a formal submission, the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts advises the state government to push for more relaxed visa conditions and increase its marketing spending to boost ``economic migration'' as part of its planned white paper on the Asian century.

Department deputy secretary Jonathan Wood said all other states and territories in Australia were increasingly aggressive in attracting such migrants and investment.

``In Tasmania, the budget for economic migration promotional activities and resources has been significantly reduced for (this) financial year,'' Mr Wood writes.

``This, combined with Tasmania's low migrant population, its low international profile and the perception of limited economic opportunities, results in Tasmania receiving a very small share of Australia business migration, with the potential for further decline in the future.''

The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is backing the push, as it believes skilled migrants from Asia and elsewhere could address specific staff shortages, as well as diversifying Tasmanian communities.

TCCI chief economist Phil Bayley said the area was being neglected by the government.

``At most three full-time equivalent (department staff) are dedicated to skilled migration, with no scope for marketing or offshore activities,'' he said. ``While acknowledging the current budget situation imposes constraints, this should be a higher priority than other areas of spending that deliver questionable benefits.''

Premier Lara Giddings said   visa conditions would be considered, along with all other ideas submitted, in the development of the $100,000 white paper on Tasmania's Asian role.

``Forging stronger links with  Asia is a key priority as we work to take advantage of the new jobs and opportunities on offer in the Asian century,'' Ms Giddings said.

``Overall, overseas migration remains a strong component of our population growth with more than 1200 people from overseas migrating to Tasmania in the 12 months to June 2012 - an increase of more than 25 per cent on the same time last year.

``This shows that more and more people from overseas are recognising the benefits of our unique lifestyle and the opportunities on offer in our island state.''

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