Andrew McKellar interview with Natalie Barr, Sunrise, Seven

13 Oct 2021 |

Event: Andrew McKellar interview with Natalie Barr, Sunrise, Seven

Speakers: Natalie Barr, co-host Sunrise; Andrew McKellar, chief executive Australian
Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Date: 13 October 2021

Topics: International reopening, skills shortages, international students, foreign tourism


Natalie Barr, co-host Sunrise: The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says more detail is needed on when skilled workers and tourists will be allowed back in, as well as a timeline for quarantine-free travel. Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar joins me now. Morning to you. Let’s go through some of your key concerns. Let’s start with the current situation with skilled labour.

Andrew McKellar, chief executive Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry: Yes. Good morning, Nat. Indeed, look, this is one of the most pressing issues I think for business as we move into the reopening. Good news that is ahead of us in terms of the international border starting to open up. But at the moment the pressure for skills around industry in Australia is almost at record levels, certainly the most severe skill shortages in 20 years. That’s right across a range of industries and a range of professions. Not only that, we need to get international students back, an important issue for our education sector, and tourism. We need t to plan for when tourists will be able to start coming back in. The tourism industry, of course, has been absolutely flattened in the pandemic, and that’s a key source of revenue.

Natalie: Yeah. They’re three big issues, really, aren’t they? Talk us through quarantine and the issues surrounding that.

Andrew: That’s right. One of the key things that we’ll need to resolve as we move into the next phase of the reopening plan, and get to the final stages of that, will be at what point we can start to open up in terms of quarantine. At the moment there simply aren’t enough quarantine places available. Even if we go back to a situation where we’ve lifted the international passenger caps, that should be occurring now, that’s only about 6,000 quarantine places around Australia. There’s some additional capacity coming on stream, but we need much more. In a normal year, before the pandemic, we were bringing in somewhere around the order of 120,000 skilled migrants to Australia, making a very important contribution. We need to get back to at least those levels. To be honest, to cover some of these skill shortages, we need to probably raise that to 150,000 or 200,000 in the next few years. That’s the only way we’re going to maximize the pace of the economic recovery, support jobs, support investment, get businesses back on track, and lift living standards.

Natalie: The holes are starting to show, aren’t they? Andrew, thank you very much for your insight this morning.

Andrew: Thank you.

Jack Quail

Media Officer

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