November 28, 2020

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Australia wants to attract ‘seriously talented’ Hong Kong people: Minister


Australia is “specifically targeting” students and highly talented individuals from Hong Kong who will be able to contribute to its economy, a minister told CNBC this week.

Canberra announced last week that it would be offering help to people wanting to move out of Hong Kong after the implementation of the new national security law on June 30. Australia’s decision followed that of Taiwan and the United Kingdom, which also offered help to Hong Kongers looking to resettle elsewhere.

“Australia is an immigrant nation and we’re constantly chasing talent from around the world,” Australian minister for population, cities and urban infrastructure, Alan Tudge, told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Tuesday.

The country announced last week that “skilled and graduate visa-holders” would have their visas extended by five years, and that there would be a “path to permanent residency” at the end of that period.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, but the territory is granted more freedoms than other cities on the mainland. Hong Kong has a largely separate economic and legal system, and is allowed limited election rights.

We’ll be specifically targeting students and the really seriously talented individuals in Hong Kong who will be, if you like, be able to contribute to the economy back here.

Alan Tudge

Australia’s minister for population, cities and urban infrastructure

Attracting talent and businesses

Australia has gone into recession, and Tudge said that’s one of the reasons why it wants to attract skilled workers.

He noted that the recession is “devastating” for the hundreds of thousands of people who are unemployed and said the government’s “absolute focus” is to grow the economy again and get people back to work.

“In part, that’s what our reach-out to the super talent in Hong Kong and elsewhere is about,” Tudge told CNBC. 

He also said: “We’ll be specifically targeting students and the really seriously talented individuals in Hong Kong who will be, if you like, be able to contribute to the economy back here.”

Australia also wants to attract companies that want to move their regional headquarters out of Hong Kong.

Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk across a road in Hong Kong, China, on Friday, July 10, 2020.

Roy Liu | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tudge said media, financial services and consulting firms have indicated they are looking to relocate operations, and Australia wants to make it attractive for them to set up shop in its cities.

Offering visas is one factor because it ensures that the company’s critical staff can move to Australia and have a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship, he said.

As for high corporate taxes that could deter firms, Tudge said “boutique financial arrangements” could be offered to individual businesses.

Tax rates for companies in Australia go as high as to 30%, compared to 16.5% in Hong Kong.

— CNBC’s Huileng Tan and Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report.



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