I wish I could say Anthony Albanese’s jobs summit was finding competent solutions to Australia’s skills and worker shortage. It would be great to see some practical initiatives emerge from this talkfest.
Unfortunately, everyone participating seems to be focused on towing the Labor government’s line: increased power for the unions and opening the immigration floodgates.
As predicted, the Labor government has lifted the permanent immigration intake to a record 195,000 places and has committed $36 million to fast-track almost a million visa applications. In the middle of a housing crisis when so many thousands of working Australians can’t secure accommodation, not a thing has been said about how we are going to find places for all these new people to live.
Apart from spending another $5 billion of taxpayers’ money on childcare subsidies to increase women in the workforce (already at record levels), hardly anything has been said about lifting workforce participation by Australians already living here.
At the stroke of a few pens, there’s a skilled and experienced workforce of thousands of Australians who could start work tomorrow across a range of industries and critical sectors of the economy: everyone shut out of their jobs by COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
These mandates make less sense the longer they go on. This week it was announced that staff working in private health facilities in Queensland were no longer required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
If this can be done for health workers, of all people, it can be done for everyone. We know the jabs are no guarantee against infection or transmission; it makes no sense to continue to exclude willing, skilled and experienced workers from their jobs, let alone punish people – as the Queensland government is doing with teachers – for refusing the jabs.
Then there’s the more than 900,000 Australians currently receiving unemployment benefits. Why bring a million new people to work in Australia when you already have almost a million people already here getting the dole?
Instead we need to discourage long-term unemployment by restricting benefits, and revitalise our training systems and programs to ensure a home-grown Australian workforce. Let’s get TAFE and agricultural colleges opened up again and update their courses to suit the changing needs of the economy. Let’s make sure universities are prioritising Australian students instead of chasing the international student dollar.
In other words, let’s put Australians first in our solutions to this skills shortage. Immigration is a short-sighted fix that will only create more problems down the track.