Regional Australia is facing the risk of losing skilled workers and exacerbating the housing crisis due to proposed changes in the visa system by the federal government. The Liberal Party criticized the Albanese government’s plans, stating that it would allow holders of temporary work visas to abandon their jobs in regional areas and move to major cities. This could lead to regional communities losing access to key services while capital cities experience higher rents, increased congestion, and greater demand on government services.
The Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Dan Tehan, expressed concerns about businesses investing money, time, and effort to recruit workers to fill skills shortages, only to have those workers leave and move to the city soon after starting their jobs. The potential changes in the visa system could disrupt the stability and growth of businesses in regional areas, impacting sectors such as mechanics or restaurant kitchens.
Additionally, the proposed changes would make it more challenging for businesses to bring in foreign workers due to an increase in the salary threshold. Lower-paid workers, including those in the care sector, earning below $70,000 would face additional regulations. The Liberals argued that these changes would discourage regional businesses from sponsoring workers, as they would be paid less due to their location.
The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) emphasized the need for the federal government to focus on removing barriers to employment for pensioners, veterans, and students, rather than relying solely on immigration to address labor shortages. The IPA’s analysis revealed that approximately 550,000 pensioners, veterans, and students would enter the workforce if tax barriers and red tape were eliminated. The organization urged the government to prioritize solutions within the country to tackle worker shortages, considering the projected shortage of 252,000 homes in the next five years.
The federal government is set to release its Employment White Paper, which will address crucial aspects such as full employment, wages, job security, and skill shortages. Its goals include enhancing productivity, overcoming labor market barriers, and providing more opportunities to individuals in various parts of Australia. Treasurer Jim Chalmers highlighted the importance of creating a dynamic and inclusive labor market that benefits the people, businesses, and economy.