Australia’s temporary skilled visa system no longer fit for purpose and must be fixed

07 Mar 2019 |

Australia’s temporary skilled visa system is no longer effective in targeting genuine skills shortages faced by Australian businesses, Australia’s largest network of businesses, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said to a Senate Inquiry on temporary skilled migration yesterday.

“We presented our strong view to the Inquiry that the significant changes made by the Federal Government in April 2017 were misguided, resulting in a less responsive and more expensive temporary skilled migration system,” Australian Chamber CEO, James Pearson, said.

“The Australian Chamber’s recommendations to the inquiry reflect that employer sponsored temporary and permanent skilled migration has been detrimentally affected, even though it is the most successful form of migration for Australia. Evidence for this position and proposals to fix the problem are in our policy statement, ‘Migration works for all of us – delivering benefits to all Australians’.

“There is no doubt that a country of Australia’s size, spread across cities and regions, has skill gaps.

“There is no chance that we can or will always have the right skills available in the right place, at the right time.

“If a business does not have the skills it needs, it can’t be run properly, it won’t be able to grow to its potential and it won’t be able to offer as many jobs to other Australians. It’s viability as a business will be threatened.

“Until recently, Australia was to be congratulated for its approach to skilled migration. We successfully changed the demographics of our workforce for the better by welcoming young skilled migrants who filled gaps in the labour market and helped businesses employ more Australians.

“We urge the Government to return the skilled migration system to one which is accessible and responsive, while maintaining robust compliance and integrity.”

The Australian Chamber speaks for over 300,000 businesses employing millions of Australians in every sector of our economy and in every part of our country.


Opening remarks to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs’ Inquiry into the effectiveness of the current temporary skilled visa system in targeting genuine skills shortages
Wednesday 6 March 2019, 2pm
Jenny Lambert, Director – Employment Education and Training, Australian Chamber

This review is timely given it has been almost two years since the government announced significant changes to both the temporary skilled and permanent employer nominated schemes.

It is our strong view that the changes made in April 2017 were misguided and have made temporary skilled migration less responsive and more expensive.

As reflected in our recommendations set out on page 3 of our submission:

  • All skilled occupations should again be eligible for temporary skilled migration.
  • There should be no distinction between short and long-term temporary skilled visas and all temporary visas should have a possible pathway to permanency.
  • The operation of multiple lists is too complex, and there is no chance of reflecting regional or individual business needs through national analysis.
  • Reduce the cost of accessing the scheme back down to reasonable levels.
  • Maintain compliance vigilance to improve confidence.

These recommendations reflect the fundamental importance for Australia to have an employer sponsored temporary skilled scheme that is responsive and accessible.

The option of a pathway to permanency ensures the best and brightest talent is available. Importantly, this option is strictly controlled by the overall permanent cap. Whether it be graduate students, temporary skilled migrants or working holiday makers, they all have to apply for permanency through the filter of the permanent cap. No temporary scheme is what some are calling a ‘back door’ mechanism to do anything. Indeed applying for permanent residence is a highly regulated front door mechanism controlled by a cap.  This is illustrated by the fact that the number of temporary skilled visa holders in 2017-18 that transitioned to permanent residency was 21% less than the previous year, reflecting the drop in the number of permanent migrants accepted last financial year.

Our recommendations also reflect that employer sponsored skilled migration, either temporary or permanent, is the most successful form of migration for Australia. Our evidence for this is set out in the document attached to our submission, which we released before Christmas entitled ‘Migration Works for All of Us.’

This policy document sets out a strong evidence based argument for the value of migration economically and socially.

Up until recently, Australia could have been enthusiastically congratulated for its approach to migration. We have successfully changed for the better the demographics of our workforce by welcoming young skilled migrants who are filling gaps in the labour market.

Let there be no doubt that a country this size spread across the cities and regions has skill gaps. There is no chance that we can always have skills available in the right place at the right time. If an organisation does not have the skills they need, it impacts their growth, their productivity, the community service they offer and many times, the jobs they can offer to other Australians and their very viability as a business.

Thank you once again for the opportunity and I welcome your questions.

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Emily Kennelly

Adviser - Public Affairs & Advocacy

P  |  0438 730 772

E  |  [email protected]

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