US President Donald Trump has flagged introducing an Australian-style immigration system as part of a sweeping overhaul of rules for foreigners wanting to make a new life in America.
Mr Trump praised Australia’s points-based system for skilled migrants during an hour-long speech to a joint sitting of congress in which he also called on America’s allies for military support and hinted at trade reforms that could include new tariffs on overseas-made goods.
Returning to his election campaign mantra of making America great again, Mr Trump said a merit-based immigration system like Australia’s and Canada’s would save money and benefit low-income earning families.
“It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially,” he said.
“Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration and instead adopting a merit-based system will have many benefits: it will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages and help struggling families – including immigrant families – enter the middle class.”
About two-thirds of the 190,000 visas Australia awards each year go to skilled migrants deemed to have enough “points” based on their age, English language skills, work experience and education qualifications.
Mr Trump’s speech largely focused on domestic issues like kickstarting the economy, scratching Obamacare and boosting military spending but offered no precise details on what he wants congress to approve.
He also again promised to build a wall along the Mexican border and beef up vetting procedures to “keep out those who would do us harm”.
US allies including Australia were put on notice that Mr Trump is preparing for a “robust” engagement with them and wants their support to destroy ISIS.
“We expect our partners, whether in NATO, in the Middle East or the Pacific to take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations and pay their fare share of the cost,” he said.
US political expert Dr John Hart, from ANU’s School of History, said allies like Australia would be wondering if they might be dragged into Mr Trump’s plan to destroy ISIS or potential military action in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, where Beijing has been building islands.
“If we are drawn into a military conflict with China or even a trade war with China the normal Australian rhetoric whenever America’s goals and China’s goals clash won’t be enough,” he told AAP.
“If there is a trade war and if there is a military confrontation Australia will be forced to choose.”
Meanwhile, Mr Trump has suggested foreign companies exporting to the US could have new tariffs imposed on their goods as part of his plan to kickstart the US economy.
“Currently when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing,” he said.
Dr Hart described the remark as “ridiculous” given the difficulties Australian sugar growers have exporting to the US.