The Australian Government has convened the largest national discussion on Australia’s labour force since the Hawke-Keating Government in 1983.
This comes at a time where broad consensus seems to have been achieved between some rather strange bedfellows (notably between the government, trade unions, employer groups, and even some support from the opposition leader in absentia).
As the curtain falls on the 2-day summit, the following headlines stand out:
In an unprecedented move, the annual migration cap will increase by around 22% to 195,000 within the existing programme year
The programme will be re-configured with renewed focus on regional and State / Territory sponsored categories (to the tune of an extra 45,000 places diverted to those programmes)
The Government has committed over $36M to expedite the backlog of visa applications in the pipeline (representing an additional 500 staff over 9 months)
A further 5,000 places allocated to employer-nominated permanent residence
Important initiatives to train and skill more Australians through TAFE and other programmes
Conspicuously absent however:
If/when the skilled occupation lists will be reconstituted
Whether and to what extent there will be an increase to the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold, seemingly stuck at $53,000, but proposed by some quarters to increase to $90K+. Should such a drastic increase be made, it is conceivable that swathes of junior health and aged care workers will miss the cut, as well as sorely needed hospitality and trades workers.
Whether, when and to what extent there will be any structural reforms to the programme
It is the absence of clarity in these areas that means we are still essentially dealing with the same qualitative programme (albeit enlarged) for the time being. Law reform can be notoriously slow to meet emergent needs, and so we recommend that action is taken now to use the current machinery to take advantage of the extra places, and faster processing times, rather than hoping for a new ‘health worker’ or similarly bespoke visa category.
By way of example, Health and Aged Care should be looking at labour agreements and ensuring that incentives are built in to attract and retain talent. This is imperative in the face of stiff competition from countries like the USA where RNs (for example) are offered a salary premium of about 20% relative to Australia. (source: US Bureau of Labour Statistics https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm / ABS: https://labourmarketinsights.gov.au/ )
The summit was a necessary and extremely important crucible of consensus - now let’s get on with the task at hand.
*Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice beforetaking any course of action.*
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