Big business requires an “earnings incentive” for permanent migration, with at least two-thirds of the positions going to skilled workers;
In a proposal to next month’s jobs and skills conference, Australian Chamber of Commerce chief executive Jennifer Westacott stressed the need for an immediate solution because “we simply don’t have enough people to handle the backlog of visa approvals across all categories”.
Migration, labor market reform and skills shortages will be key issues at the summit. Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor told reporters the government was not yet settled on a number after a report at the weekend said the government wanted to increase the intake of refugees to between 180,000 and 200,000.
In the Morrison government’s 2022-23 migration program plan level of 160,000, 109,900 were in the skilled stream.
Immigration is always a delicate debate, both in terms of numbers, and the balance between importing skills and training local people.
Westacott said: “We need to focus on moving from a short-term temporary system to a long-term planned migration to four-year visas, pathways to permanent migration and planning for future population growth so we can access housing, transport.” And health services are right.”
On workplace relations, she said the conference should agree on the importance of “returning the role of collective bargaining as an integral part of the system” “because it will lead to better results for workers and employers”.
“It had to be accessible to different types of employers. It should also be very simple and easy to navigate.
“It is by reviving the potential of enterprise agreements to be a genuine substitute for rewards that we can re-attract innovation and investment to drive growth in productivity and real wages.
To be successful, we need to remove the red tape and barriers that prevent businesses, unions and workers from negotiating new agreements in a way that is simple and easy to use.
Westacott says the higher education system needs to be redesigned in relation to improving skills “so it looks and feels different to students and employers. There needs to be more interaction between VET and higher education, and between students and their employers.
Last week, the ACTU released its first papers ahead of the conference, in which it called for labor markets to be deregulated to “increase real wages in line with labor productivity”.
He also called for higher profits to be imposed on companies that have made high profits due to current inflation, and to scrap the statutory Tier 3 tax cut, “which only benefits high-income households and exacerbates inflation”.
The government announced the repeal of the super profits tax and tax cuts, and Treasurer Jim Chalmers quickly distanced himself from the unions’ calls.
The conference saw federal opposition figures six and seven, with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton declining an invitation to attend but Nationals leader David Littleproud saying he was anxious to represent regional communities.
Chalmers will issue a discussion paper this week.