Jobs and Skills Summit – Day Two

Day 2 of the Jobs and Skills Summit has delivered major wins for businesses struggling to find staff.

The permanent migration cap will be lifted and a new effort will be launched to clear the visa backlog.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also announced that pensioners will be able to work more without penalty.

Australia’s permanent migration intake will increase by 35,000 to 195,000 a year and the Government will direct $36.1 million towards additional visa processing.

A major review into Australia’s immigration system was also announced.

The Government’s Summit outcomes document can be seen here.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar spoke during the session that canvassed the role of skilled migration in resolving the current skills and labour shortage.

Mr McKellar told the Summit that announcements to in increase permanent migration and provide additional resources to visa processing were a “significant step forward” and re-stated ACCI’s call for all occupations to be eligible.

“It’s important that employer-sponsored temporary and permanent migration needs to return to the sorts of settings that we had prior to 2017, which allowed sponsorship of all skilled occupations,” Mr McKellar said.

“Employer sponsored migration in Australia is the most successful form of migration for Australia, as well as for the migrant.”

In ACCI’s media release, Mr McKellar said the chamber movement had been campaigning for an increase to the migration cap since August last year.

During the Summit, Mr McKellar also discussed the temporary skilled migration income threshold, emphasising that three in four temporary skilled migrants are professionals or managers with a salary over $100,000.

“It’s misleading (to suggest) that the programmes are dominated by exploitation of guest workers,” Mr McKellar said.

Moves to increase the minimum salary of temporary skilled migrants well beyond the current $53,900 would potentially shut out certain occupations, including, for example, aged care workers, cooks, café and accommodation managers, mechanics and hairdressers, Mr McKellar said. It would also adversely impact on regional areas.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles told the Summit that the visa backlog had been reduced from 1 million to 900,000 since the election.

“The median number of days it takes for a person coming into Australia on a temporary skilled visa is down: 53 days in May to 42 in July,” Mr Giles said.

The $36.1 million announced in visa processing surge capacity will fund 500 staff over nine months.

In addition to the immediate immigration fixes, Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil announced a major review into Australia’s immigration system.

“What does our migration system look like for potential migrants? The current program is fiendishly complex. There are more than 70 unique visa programs, each with their own criteria and subcategories. There are hundreds of labour agreements and multiple skilled occupation lists, and an outdated visa processing system that is anything but fit for purpose,” Ms O’Neil said.

“People who want to live here can end up spending years filling out forms, at considerable personal expense, and then only be allowed to stay for a short while.”

The review would “consider how we can rebuild our immigration program in Australia’s national interest,” Ms O’Neil said.

The Government announced that pensioners would be able to earn an additional $4000 this financial year on top of the existing $480 a fortnight limit.

In closing the Summit, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “This will mean that older Australians who want to work can earn more income before their pension is reduced.”

Further details of Government’s announcement for pensioners can be seen here.

In ACCI’s media release welcoming the announcement, chief executive Andrew McKellar said: “By removing some of the barriers for pensioners who want to work, we can make a real difference in their lives, and also help businesses struggling to find staff.”

Earlier today, the Summit discussed the future labour market, of which a key focus was the Statement of Common Interests on Skills and Training. The joint statement was issued ahead of the Summit by ACCI along with Ai Group, the BCA and the ACTU.

Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor said that, following yesterday’s announcement of $1 billion to provide more than 180,000 fee-free TAFE places, work would now commence on a five-year National Skills Agreement to be in place from 2024.

“We need to focus on the structural, systemic and even cultural challenges to reform our (vocational education and training) sector and our higher education sector,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Investing in our future workforce is an important as is as important to us as ensuring we have effective skilled migration pathways.”

Jobs and Skills Summit – Day One

Calls by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for reform to the “better off overall test” (BOOT) and improving enterprise bargaining have made progress at the Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra.

A consultation process to inform changes to the Fair Work Act will commence following the Summit and ACCI will seek to play a leading role for all employers: small, medium and large.

ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar told the Summit this morning that the operation and interpretation of the BOOT was “a fundamental reform that’s got to be on the table”.

Mr McKellar made the comments during the session focusing on sustainable wage growth and the future of bargaining.

ACCI and other groups have repeatedly called for reform to the BOOT, which has become unworkable and a barrier to agreement-making, productivity and wages growth.

A commitment to reform the BOOT represents a significant development from Government.

Mr McKellar also told the Summit that while there were different views on the relationship between productivity and wages, “there’s no disagreement from business that when productivity goes up, wages should go up as well”.

“There is consensus between employers and unions that our bargaining system is withering,” Mr McKellar said.

“We have to restore the link between productivity and bargaining and wages.

“Productivity is fundamentally driven at the enterprise level, and that’s where the focus … should remain if we’re going to reinvigorate and restore confidence in the bargaining system.

“The question that we have to answer … is how can we fix those core problems in our bargaining system for businesses and organisations of all sizes: small, medium and large?”

At the conclusion of the session, Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said the Fair Work Act would be updated and consultation with stakeholders would begin next week.

Significant work will be undertaken after the Summit, starting next week, to flesh out these priorities, determine where risks and opportunities lie for employers, and to seek to shape what translates into legislative amendments during coming months.

Following the session, Mr McKellar said that new directions on industrial relations announced by Mr Burke would be critical in restoring common sense, but unanswered questions remained around the operation of proposed changes to multi-employer agreements.

“The veiled push for a return to industry-wide bargaining under the guise of multi-employer agreements is a distraction from the fundamental challenges miring our industrial relations system,” Mr McKellar said in ACCI’s media release.
“The ACTU must be transparent about the changes they propose to multi-employer bargaining given it is already clearly allowed under the Fair Work Act.
“We know that businesses and workers aren’t pursuing multi-employer agreements currently, so why are we looking for solutions in this area?
“Under the ACTU’s proposal, it also remains unclear the size and kind of firms that would have access to multi-employer agreements, and whether this will be restricted to the lower paid.”

At the start of the day’s session, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced that an additional 180,000 TAFE places would be funded.

Mr Albanese said the $1.1 billion cost would be shared with the states and territories, following an agreement reached at National Cabinet yesterday. Work will continue on development of the National Skills Agreement.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announces dates for Jobs and Skills summit

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announces dates for Jobs and Skills summit

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese yesterday announced the dates for the much anticipated Jobs and Skills summit. Due to be held at Parliament House in Canberra, the Summit will take place on Thursday 1 and Friday 2 September 2022.

Fulfilling an election commitment from the Prime Minister, the summit aims to bring together Australians, including unions, employers, civil society and governments to address shared economic challenges, namely rising inflation and interest rates, falling real wages and the trillion dollar debt.

Prime Minister Albanese announced his commitment to delivering the Jobs and Skills summit to guests at ACCI’s Pre-Election Address in May 2022.

What is the Jobs and Skills Summit?
The Summit sees the fulfilment of an election commitment with the goal of building a “bigger, better-trained and more productive workforce” along with improving living standards and giving Australians more opportunity to get ahead. It will recommend immediate actions and opportunities for medium and long-term reform.

Approximately 100 attendees will be invited to the summit in September.

What’s on the agenda?
The Summit will be led by the Prime Minister and Treasurer with input from all Ministers. Individual Ministers Katy Gallagher, Tony Burke, Clare O’Neil, Amanda Rishworth, Brendan O’Connor and Ed Husic, will lead the following policy areas:

  • Keeping unemployment low, boosting productivity and raising incomes
  • Delivering secure, well-paid jobs and strong, sustainable wages growth
  • Expanding employment opportunities for all Australians including the most disadvantaged
  • Addressing skills shortages and getting our skills mix right over the long-term
  • Improving migration settings to support higher productivity and wages
  • Maximising jobs and opportunities from renewable energy, tackling climate change, the digital economy, the care economy and a Future Made in Australia
  • Ensuring women have equal opportunities and equal pay.

What will be the likely outcome?
Treasurer Jim Chalmers has indicated that the outcomes from discussions during the forum could be implemented as early as the October federal budget.

The themes and outcomes of the summit will inform the full employment white paper which was also an election commitment from the Prime Minister. Led by Treasury, the white paper will help shape the future of Australia’s labour market. Calls for submissions will be made over the next 12 months.

How will ACCI be involved?
Of the approximately 100 people to be invited, representatives from ACCI will attend along with other employer groups, unions, community groups and governments.

ACCI has been in contact with various Minister’s offices and the Treasury about the summit.

Following calls from the Treasurer, ACCI will deliver its own submission to the white paper process and in so doing, will be a strong representative voice brought into the discussion on Australia’s economic challenges.

We will keep you updated as we receive further information.

More information can be found on the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet website, or on the Treasury website.

Prime Minister Albanese speaks with Andrew McKellar, ACCI CEO and Lyall Gorman, Business NSW President at the Pre-Election Address in May 2022.

Andrew McKellar, ACCI CEO, Lyall Gorman, Business NSW President, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Nola Watson, ACCI President, Dan Hunter, CEO Business NSW at the Pre-Election Address in May 2022.