Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says skilled migration would be an important short-term fix for chronic tech skills shortages, but ultimately it would be smart education and training policy that drives industry growth.
Mr Albanese outlined a critical role for the planned Jobs and Skills Australia agency to identify and support development of the workforce skills that will underwrite the creation of new industry sectors.
Speaking at a Tech Council reception at Parliament House on Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister outlined a series of connected policy streams to boost the competitive Australia’s “high-value, high-wage, smart economy” and take advantage of its proximity to the fastest growing markets in the world in Asia.
In his first high-profile engagement with Australia’s technology industry since taking office, Mr Albanese also pressed Labor’s Buy Australia Plan as a “common sense” willingness to use government purchasing power to boost Australian industry and to create local jobs.
“We need to not just think about what we can dig up and export, we need to think about how smart we are as a country and what our future is … [and] that’s high wage, high value – a smart economy that powers the region,” Mr Albanese said.
“We are located, of course, in the fastest growing region in the world, and that presents incredible opportunities.
“So Australia goes from trying to compete with the countries to our north on the basis of wages and labour costs into a country that competes successfully and has comparative advantage because of the skills that our people have, because of multiculturalism – which is an enormous asset because of personal connections [into the region] – and because of our science and innovation and research, which is commercialised for job creation.”
“This is the vision that I have for the country. It is something that we have put together with our energy policy, linking up with our industry policy, linking up with our employment policy and linking with our IR policy.”
Mr Albanese said the creation of the new Jobs and Skills Australia agency would “do for labour what Infrastructure Australia does for capital.
“Infrastructure Australia is there to make sure that the finite resources available to the national government is available to the projects that are most productive,” he said.
Jobs and Skills Australia would “make sure that the training and education that we have are purpose-built for this century, not the last century.”
Mr Albanese said endorsed Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic’s plan to convene a roundtable of tech industry voices – including the Tech Council, the Australian Information Industry Association, and the Australian Computer Society – ahead of the government’s Jobs and Skills Summit next month.
Boosting Australia’s local tech industry was important for building resilience into the national economy, as not just an economic issue, but a national security issue as well.
Procurement reform was a key component of building capability, not as protectionist policy, but to “use Australian taxpayer’s money to create Australian jobs and economic activity.”
“Our Buy Australia Plan – and this is common sense to me – that wherever possible we should use our procurement policies, we should use our taxpayers dollars to make sure that we advance Australian industry,” Mr Albanese said.