Treasurer Jim Chalmers says it’s a good idea to temporarily double the number of skilled migration places to 200,000 to deal with critical labour shortages. The federal government is planning a jobs summit to find common ground with the private sector.
Business groups have pushed for an increase in the number of immigrants allowed in because almost every industry is having trouble finding workers.
Mr. Chalmers told the ABC News that a lack of workers was “really putting the brakes on” the economy.
“Certainly, I think that as we come out of that COVID period when migration was mostly stopped, that should be a chance to think about the best mix of migration as the programme picks up speed again,” Mr. Chalmers said.
“This is something we’re talking about with business.
“But I would warn people not to think that migration is the answer to all of our economic problems, and it shouldn’t be a substitute for training Australians.”
Sally McManus, the secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said that any changes to migration must give migrants opportunities instead of taking advantage of them.
Ms. McManus said, “Our immigration system should give workers who want to make a better life for themselves and their families in this country a chance to do so, not make it easier for wage theft and exploitation to happen on a large scale.”
The Australian Retailers Association said on Monday that businesses are still worried about labour and skill shortages, even though inflation is going up, there are problems with the supply chain, and fuel and energy costs are going up.
Paul Zahra, the head of the ARA, said, “The problem affects everyone, from the smallest cafes to the biggest multinationals.”
“Around the country, there are almost 500,000 open jobs, including over 40,000 in retail trade alone.”
A recent OECD report found that Australia had the second-worst shortage of workers among developed countries.
Employee Benefit Agreements (EBAs) are being ripped apart by labour unions
But even though businesses are worried about a lack of workers, unions have said that their main goal at the national jobs summit in September will be to change the way business and labour relations work.
In particular, the ACTU has asked that businesses no longer be able to end enterprise bargaining agreements on their own.
The Treasurer agreed that EBAs need to be looked at again and said that the problem had caused wages to stay the same for the past 10 years.
Mr. Chalmers said, “The breaking of agreements has been a problem with the way we deal with work for a long time.”
Even though there were some disagreements at first, Mr. Chalmers said that the upcoming jobs summit would be a chance to find common ground instead of making things worse.
Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley made fun of the upcoming summit by calling it a “Labor talkfest” that would boost sales of Post-It notes at stationery stores and “that’s about it.”
Mr. Chalmers didn’t agree with what was said.
“These people have had a decade to bring people together for the sake of the national economy, but they haven’t done it,” he said.
Since there is only room for 100 people on the guest list for the summit, Mr. Chalmers said that the opposition would have to show that it would be helpful for them to be there.
The Treasurer didn’t say for sure if independents or other parties would be invited to the summit, but he did say that the government would make sure they could contribute.