Incentives to lock in our future workforce

Incentives to lock in our future workforce

The announcement of a strategic review of the Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System has been welcomed by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Incentives play an essential role in the apprenticeship model, providing necessary support for both apprentices and employers,” David Alexander, ACCI’s Chief of Policy and Advocacy said.

“The apprenticeship model plays a vital role in skills development and successful transitions from education to employment. To ensure those looking for work have the skills and training required for the jobs of today and tomorrow, we must get the incentives right.”

The Review comes at a critical time for the incentive system. From 1 July 2024, the Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System will see an up to 70% decrease in incentive payments for high-priority occupations and the removal of incentives altogether for those non-priority.

“The decrease in incentive payments has the potential to significantly impair the ability of businesses to train up apprentices,” Mr Alexander said.

ACCI’s pre-Budget submission calls for government support for all apprenticeships and traineeships of no less than 30% in wage subsidies across two years. ACCI also seeks reinstatement of the fixed monetary completion incentives of $2500 to employers and support of up to $5000, to assist in the completion of their training to all endorsed apprentices and traineeships.

“ACCI looks forward to providing input into the review and will work closely with the Hon. Justice Iain Ross AO and Ms Lisa Paul AO, industry partners and the government to ensure Australia maintains a strong and dynamic workforce for the future.”

Government rushes through botched legislation

Government rushes through botched legislation

Criminal sanctions against employers who breach the botched ‘right to disconnect’ provisions rushed through Parliament is set to become proclaimed Australian law.

Despite earlier claims the House of Representatives would wait until the Senate sits to remove the prospect of employers facing criminal charges, the bill was passed today.

“Rather than waiting for another Senate sitting day, the government decided to push the bill through today without removing the criminal element to the new right to disconnect laws,” ACCI chief executive officer Andrew McKellar said.

“This Greens-inspired amendment was rushed through the Parliament with unseemly haste, without the scrutiny the rest of the bill has undergone over months.

“While the error in the bill was apparently inadvertent, the result is a complete mess which adds to the grave misgivings business has about this legislation.

“It is unfathomable that this botched legislation will become the law of the land once given royal assent.

“This highlights the problems that have been caused by this productivity-wrecking legislation that has been subject to virtually no parliamentary scrutiny.

“It is essential that the government makes crystal clear when the amending legislation will be introduced to fix this mess.

“Further, this legislation should be subjected to the same degree of examination applied to the rest of the legislation.”

Incentives to lock in our future workforce

ACCI welcomes Jobs and Skills Australia Commissioner appointment

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomes the appointment of Professor Barney Glover AO as the new Commissioner of Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA).

“Professor Glover’s appointment as the Commissioner of JSA will help provide a steady hand to guide its mission,” ACCI chief executive officer Andrew McKellar said.

“JSA is essential to helping to identify our present and future skills and labour needs. We know that the best defence against recurring skills shortages is access to comprehensive data that anticipates our skills needs.”

The work of JSA allows for the application of a whole-of-economy and nationwide perspective which guides the strategic direction of the organisation.

Market analysis and forecasting conducted by JSA will play a fundamental role in informing migration strategies, ensuring a proactive response to evolving workforce demands.

“With his immediate background as vice chancellor and president of Western Sydney University, Professor Glover’s understanding of management and business leadership makes him well placed to lead JSA and ensure the agency responsible for monitoring Australia’s workforce needs is well equipped,” Mr McKellar said.

ACCI looks forward to working closely with him and JSA over the coming years to help prevent further skills shortages.

Botched amendment highlights dangers of rushed legislation

Botched amendment highlights dangers of rushed legislation

The botched introduction of the ‘right to disconnect’ amendment that exposes employers to criminal penalties has made bad legislation even worse.

“This amendment was rushed through the Parliament with unseemly haste, without the scrutiny the rest of the bill has undergone over months,” ACCI chief executive officer Andrew McKellar said.

“While the error in the bill was apparently inadvertent, the result is a complete mess which adds to the grave misgivings business has about this legislation.

“This regressive union-dictated legislation will do nothing to grow productivity or create jobs and has ended up with the spectre of employers facing criminal charges for calling an employee.

“While a further amendment will correct this, it simply is not good enough. It has exposed the dangers of adhering to a radical agenda without careful scrutiny.”

The legislation more broadly will present immense practical issues for businesses that employ millions of Australians.

“Employers are very concerned about the impact of these sweeping changes. They will add to the cost of doing business and create more red tape,” ACCI chief executive officer Andrew McKellar said.

“Negotiations this week have slightly improved some aspects of the legislation. But, as a whole, these changes will be a deadweight on productivity and jobs growth. This is bad legislation and it is an enormous step backwards for the modern workforce.

“At a time when the cost of living and cost of doing business is becoming more difficult to manage, small businesses should not need to seek costly legal advice just to employ casuals or engage independent contractors.

“The rate of change across two years is causing significant fatigue and this this union-inspired legalism will only add to the administrative burden of business owners.”

ACCI acknowledges the efforts of the crossbench, particularly Senators David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie, to achieve some improvements to this productivity-wrecking legislation.

“The crossbench has worked constructively to ensure that some of our concerns could be ameliorated,” Mr McKellar said.

Improvements ACCI has advocated successfully for include:

  • A clearer definition of casual employment that will provide more certainty to employers.
  • Providing businesses with the ability to provide ‘fair and reasonable grounds’ to decline a casual employee’s request to convert to permanent employment.
  • Repealing the existing requirement on businesses to offer conversion and providing a single legislated pathway for casuals to convert to permanent employment; reducing the administrative burden on employers.
  • Narrowing of the definition of ‘employee-like’, ensuring that tradespersons and independent small businesses are less likely to be captured by a minimum standards order.
Joint statement from the CEOs of Australia’s chambers

Joint statement from the CEOs of Australia’s chambers

Joint statement from the CEOs of Australia’s chambers

On behalf of business operators across Australia, we urge the Senate to carefully reconsider the implications of this rushed and flawed industrial relations legislation.

The national, state and territory business chambers are united in support of our small and family enterprise business community that is already under significant pressure from rapidly rising costs.

We are gravely concerned that the proposed legislation will harm all business owners and operators, especially growing ones.  The legislation will also impact the prospects for the very employees that it purports to protect.  It will damage the communities that are reliant on the growth and resilience of local businesses.

Our members employ millions of Australians across regions, towns, cities, and every sector.  Most of our members are small businesses that contribute so much, and we will burden them with additional constraints and costs.

These costs will be passed on to the community or result in the loss of jobs.  Or both.

Small business owners are already subject to a bewildering array of bureaucratic constraints, and this legislation will further bind them in red tape.

A one-size-fits-all approach to the casual labour market, in an economy that is already short of essential skills, could not come at a worse time.  It will negatively affect those workers who welcome flexibility in their lives, and at a time when flexibility and skill-share is a rising economic saviour.

We encourage the Senate to view this legislation through the broad lens of mainstream Australia, where family enterprise and small business is the lifeblood of the economy and community.

In particular, amendments proposed by the Greens have not been subject to any scrutiny or consultation and were not on the table when the Senate committee held hearings around Australia late last year.

Specifically, we are worried about these elements of the legislation:

  • Employee-like forms of work. The definition is too broad and will capture many independent contracting arrangements in industries where the government does not intend to set minimum standards.
  • Casual employment. Until the Fair Work Commission makes a determination, employers will face substantial risk when employing casuals. This will make hiring casual employees unattractive, impacting job creation and those workers who embrace the flexibility of casual jobs.
  • Powers for union officials. The legislation will give union officials increased rights to enter a workplace without notice, despite only 8 per cent of private sector employees being union members.
  • Road transport. This is the effective re-establishment of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which was found to be disastrous for owner-drivers.
  • Intractable bargaining. Unions would be incentivised to drag out a bargaining dispute and force matters to be arbitrated. By definition, an employer would always be worse off on any term to which parties cannot agree.
  • Right to disconnect. Employees already have legal protections against working unreasonable additional hours outside work. Modern technology has provided flexibility to the workforce and many employees no longer need to sit behind a desk from nine to five, which parents have embraced. By agreement with their employers, they can work flexibly in a way that suits them and their families and maintain a work-life balance.

We cannot allow industrial relations laws to make it harder for hard-working business owners to generate the wealth we enjoy as a nation.

We cannot allow industrial relations laws to make it harder for small business owners to grow, create valuable jobs and invest in skills.

This bill will bring many unintended consequences and should not be supported in its present form.

Statement by the Chief Executive Officers of Australia’s chambers:

Andrew McKellar, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Daniel Hunter, Business NSW

Paul Guerra, Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Chris Rodwell, Chamber of Commerce and Industry Western Australia

Greg Harford, Canberra Business Chamber

Heidi Cooper, Business Chamber Queensland

Michael Bailey, Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Greg Ireland, Chamber of Commerce Northern Territory

Andrew Kay, Business SA

Australia’s tourist appeal at risk from poor arrival experience

Australia’s tourist appeal at risk from poor arrival experience

Australia’s prized title as one of the most sought-after international destinations risks being undermined by a sub-standard experience on arrival.

The Australian Chamber – Tourism is calling for increased investment to streamline the procedure for tourists entering Australia.

“It is clear that Australia is not keeping pace with the rest of the world regarding passenger facilitation,” Australian Chamber – Tourism executive chair John Hart said.

“Australia’s passenger movement charge is one of the most expensive in the world, and yet we rank 47th worldwide for our entry-point infrastructure.

“We must invest in improvements in our infrastructure and the broader passenger journey, which for many travellers is the first interaction they have with Australia.”

The Chamber’s Future Traveller Working Group has met with industry leaders to understand better passenger facilitation modernisation around the world and how it can be adapted for travellers to and from Australia.

The Chamber’s pre-budget submission calls for increased digitalisation and improved infrastructure instead of the current manual processing systems, which are inefficient and outdated.

“As we prepare to open Western Sydney International (Nancy Bird-Walton) Airport in 2026, and in the lead up to the Brisbane 2032 Summer Olympics, it is important that we adequately invest in passenger facilitation upgrades now to avoid difficulties down the track,” Mr Hart said.

“By focusing on the areas we have identified now, we can provide a positive experience for all travellers to and from Australia.”

The Chamber also recommends increased funding for Tourism Australia, reforms to the obsolete Tourist Refund Scheme, greater investment in agritourism and support to address workforce shortages.

While travel and tourism has rebounded well since pandemic restrictions were lifted, more needs to happen to ensure that the recovery continues in a sustainable manner.

“We want to see a vibrant and economically viable travel and tourism industry, and the proposals in our submission will help exceed 2019 levels more quickly and build back stronger than it has been,” Mr Hart said.