(Transcript from SBS World News)
The Mayor of London wants to make it easier for Australians to live and work in Britain.
The number of Australians moving to the British capital has fallen to an all time low, prompting controversial calls for a free movement agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom.
Greg Dyett reports.
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As Mayor of the city with the world’s twelfth largest Australian population, the idea of making it easier for Aussies to come and go from Britain has been brewing with Boris Johnson for years.
Here’s what the Mayor of London had to say back in January.
“Why not have a free labour mobility zone so you don’t have to wait for ages for your visa? We’ve got talented people with a lot to contribute to both societies, both countries, and there should be more freedom to move, that’s what I think.”
40,000 Australians called the United Kingdom home in 1999.
That figure fell to 26,000 in 2011.
Arrivals from the European Union rose 200 per cent in the same period.
A new report from the policy analysts Commonwealth Exchange backs the mayor’s calls for a ‘bilateral labour mobility zone’ between the U-K and Australia – just like the existing Trans-Tasman agreement with New Zealand.
Tim Hewish is the report’s author.
“It just seems that we’re treating Australians and other Commonwealth countries with disdain and it’s almost like we don’t want them here.”
Australians would be free visa to live and work in Britain, but wouldn’t automatically qualify for welfare.
Tim Hewish explains.
“If it can be flexible and reciprocal then I see no reason why Britons can’t go to Australia or New Zealand or Canada and we can’t, you know, have these people in as well.”
It’s welcome news for those who’ve moved to London, like nurse Georgina Darling, who says skilled Australian workers are in high demand.
“As a nurse working in London, I spoke to a lot of people before I left Sydney and all of them seem to have done a few years in London and it just doesn’t seem to be that way any more and there is a shortage of Australian nurses.”
Boris Johnson’s plan may be winning plenty of support Down Under but the same can’t be said at the Houses of Parliament.
With immigration a key issue in next year’s general election, any “open borders” policy – even within the Commonwealth – will be hard to swallow.