October 07, 2020 3 min read
Unrest in Hong Kong is an opportunity to attract much needed skills and investment to Australia, the business community says.
Guy Hedley, executive chairman of investment ﬁrm Atlas Advisers, said the government should focus on attracting skills and capital looking to ﬂee Hong Kong.
"Australia must ramp up migration incentives for high net worth people to attract top Hong Kong wealth seeking to leave the jurisdiction amidst tensions," Mr Hedley said.
Long-running protests over the Chinese government's attempts to impose its will on the former British colony, and new national security laws which give Beijing new national security laws which give Beijing new national security laws which give Beijing new national security laws which give Beijing new national security laws which give Beijing sweeping powers to clamp down on dissent sweeping powers to clamp down on dissent , have caused a rethink about the city's desirability as a migration and investment destination.
"Appetite for investment and migration in Australia from Hong Kong's highest net worth individuals is ramping up," Mr Hedley said.
"Australia must maintain a globally competitive migration program if it's going to attract Hong Kong's most wealthy investor migrants while also offering a safe haven to citizens in need."
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post last week that his government would change the country's migration laws to give up to 2.8 million Hong Kongers working rights and a pathway to British citizenship.
"This would amount to one of the biggest changes in our visa system in British history. If it proves necessary, the British government will take this step and take it the British government will take this step and take it the British government will take this step and take it the British government will take this step and take it the British government will take this step and take it willingly " Mr Johnson wrote.
"Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life – which China pledged to uphold – is under threat."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated the Australian government is considering similar opportunities.
"We think that's important and very consistent with who we are as a people and very consistent practically with the views that we have expressed," the Prime Minister said.
Mr Hedley said Australia had an opportunity to rethink its Signiﬁcant Investment Visa program, as well as migration limits, to attract people with skills and capital looking to relocate from Hong Kong to safe-haven jurisdictions.
Jenny Lambert, employment director at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the SIV program would be a good platform to encourage investment away from Hong Kong.
"The use of the Signiﬁcant Investment Visa to target investors from Hong Kong would be an appropriate mechanism to attract people with capital into our weak economy," Ms Lambert said.
"Hong Kong is internationally renowned as an important entrepreneurial hub, and capital and investment skills from that region, particularly those willing to invest in venture capital, should give the Australian economy a signiﬁcant boost."
Promoting venture capital
Under the current SIV program, provisional visas are awarded to people who invest at least $5 million into the Australia economy.
At least $500,000 of the $5 million must go into venture capital and growth private equity funds; $1.5 million into emerging ASX-listed companies; and the remainder into balanced managed funds.
Mr Hedley said while there had been inﬂows into equity markets following the height of the market panic, venture capital funding was being "starved".
Mr Hedley said priority should be given to high net worth migrants under Australia's investor visa program, and a higher investment threshold for venture capital should be introduced to be eligible for those visa classes.
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