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Andrew Brown

Calls for skilled migration overhaul

The Business Council of Australia is calling for an overhaul to the country’s skilled migration system as a way to solve critical shortages.

Ahead of the government’s upcoming jobs and skills summit, council chief executive Jennifer Westacott says well-managed migration is needed in order to drive Australia’s prosperity.

“We need to move from a short-term, ad hoc system to long-term planned migration with a focus on four-year visas, pathways to permanent migration, and future planning of our population growth,” she said.

“We want to see a catch-up boost to the permanent migration program, with at least two-thirds of places for skilled workers.”

Ms Westacott said the backlog of current visa approvals also needed to be addressed urgently.

It comes as the government indicated they were considering raising the current annual migration cap to help solve skills shortages in key industries.

Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor said while no decision had been made on what the threshold would be, an increase would be in the country’s best interests.

The current annual migration cap sits at 160,000, but reports have suggested it could be raised to 180,000 or as high as 200,000.

“We have to find whatever means possible to supply skills to our labour market because increasing the skills in our labour market will increase productivity,” Mr O’Connor told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.

“When it comes to looking at the immigration threshold, we are examining where are the shortages.”

Skills shortages are set to dominate discussions at the jobs and skills summit, set to take place over two days in September.

The summit will bring together about 100 people from unions, businesses, civil society and government.

Along with a boost to migration, the Business Council outlined multiple areas that needed to be addressed at the summit, including the development of future industries, the skilling up of Australians and tackling disadvantage.

Ms Westacott said the summit needed to also focus on the advancement of women and a win-win workplace relations system.

“The summit must agree the reset is to restore the role of collective bargaining as the centrepiece of a modern IR system because it delivers better outcomes for both workers and employers,” she said.

“But it must be designed to deliver outcomes for both workers and employers and be accessible to different types of employers. It also has to be vastly simpler and easier to navigate.”

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