Review of visa system unveiled to fight ‘global war for talent’

Opening of the panel on “a migration system for Australia’s future,” Home Secretary Clare O’Neil announced that a review of the migration system would be launched within weeks.

The review will be led by “three eminent Australians, supported by a team of brilliant thinkers, to examine how we can rebuild our immigration program in Australia’s national interest”, said Minister O’Neil.

A summit panel on jobs and skills was moderated by Australian National University (ANU) Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt and included Ms O’Neil, Atlassian Chief Executive Scott Farquhar, the provider property management platform: Mina Radhakrishnan, co-founder of Different, and Australian Workers’ Union National Secretary Daniel Walton.

Minister Clare O’Neil with Brian Schmidt of ANU, Scott Farquhar of Atlassian, Mina Radhakrishnan, co-founder of :Different, and Daniel Walton of AWU

Setting the tone for the panel, Ms. O’Neil highlighted the need for skilled workers to support the energy transition, improve technology adoption across the economy to boost productivity, “sovereign capabilities in cyber” and “technology that will support our undersea defense program”.

“We are in a global talent war for the first time in our history. These brightest minds moving around the world are looking to live in countries like Canada, like Germany, like the UK, and those countries are rolling out the red carpet,” said Minister O’Neil.

Professor Schmidt asked Ms O’Neil about how immigration could support sovereign capacity, given that a number of related jobs require applicants to be Australian citizens.

She said sovereign capacity “has never been considered as part of our migration agenda before, and what I want us to really think about as a group is what challenges lie ahead in our future and how we can use the immigration system to respond to these challenges”.

“We cannot develop the skills we need, for example in cyber. We can at this entry level… but one of them [skills] gaps is for people who have 15 to 18 years of experience in technology.

At the start of the panel discussion, Professor Schmidt shared his own migration story, from 1994. He compared it to the disadvantages faced by skilled migrants today.

“As Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, I have to recruit the best and the brightest from around the world. The low-friction environment I experienced is sadly no longer experienced by most of our new hires,” he said.

For example, Professor Schmidt noted that it recently took 21 months for the visa of a potential staff member from India to be processed, after he was offered a three-year job.

“Needless to say, we’ve lost most of those positions overseas. The people we have lost are skilled in areas of national importance, quantum physics, cyber and security studies, biomedical, computer science, to name a few,” he said. .

“[Visa processing time] makes a huge difference if you want to attract top talent. These people have global options.

Professor Schmidt also called for the creation of a bipartisan body that would be able to make decisions on visa parameters on a long-term basis, rather than on an ad hoc basis.

Atlassian chief executive Scott Farquhar said Australian tech companies need a mindset shift to recognize that they are competing on the global stage for high-skill jobs.

“If you have a shortage of qualified nurses, that’s one thing. If I have a tech skills shortage, those jobs go overseas. Those careers, those industries, those export dollars may well migrate elsewhere in the world,” Mr. Farquhar said.

“Over the next 12 months, we will be able to hire approximately 1,032 people in R&D jobs. We hope to hire them all over Australia because we allow them to work anywhere, that is to say in the regions as well as in the capitals. But, again, if we can’t find those jobs here, they will go overseas to other places.

“When we think about our business system, it has to take that into account. We should be falling upon ourselves to bring the best and the brightest from abroad to come and build our export markets here.

Since :Different is a small to medium-sized business, Ms. Radhakrishnan said she doesn’t have the luxury of moving her company’s jobs overseas if they can’t be filled. Unlike Atlassian, which can afford to find staff overseas, Radhakrishnan said, “When I can’t find a software engineer, my business will fail because I have to hire that person.

She added that skilled migration also leads to job creation. Experienced managers play an important role in developing Australian staff, Ms Radhakrishnan said.

“The need for training, education and support [doesn’t go] far when we leave school and start a professional career. Who provides this? It’s the managers. There is a very common saying, “people don’t need jobs, they need managers”. It’s so true because it’s the support and the people around you that take you to the next level.

Mr Walton, who is the deputy chairman of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, encouraged the government to remember that the purpose of migration is to create ‘tremendous value for our country’ by fulfilling roles which could not otherwise be fulfilled by Australians.

He also urged the government not to neglect training local talent in favor of cheaper temporary migration.

“What we’re seeing right now is that more and more temporary migration is being used as a way to mask gaps in the training and development of locals to be able to take on those roles,” Walton said.

“We have this perverse incentive where in certain skills and professions it is cheaper and easier to bring in a worker on a temporary basis than to train and develop a worker. We have to go back to our origins, we have to go back to identify the purpose of our immigration system.

He also urged the government to increase the number of civil servants to help eliminate the visa backlog. This was also supported by Professor Schmidt.

Mr. Farquhar noted that temporary migration visas will not be able to attract highly qualified doctoral graduates, who often have families, if there is no pathway to permanency.

Speaking from the room, Nationals leader David Littleproud and Independent Zali Steggall.

Although Mr Littleproud welcomed the Federal Government’s Pacific Labor Mobility (PALM) scheme, he said the Government should be more pragmatic about the needs of the agricultural sector and regional Australia more widely.

Mr Littleproud also expressed his desire to be a constructive voice in the discussion on jobs and skills, stressing the importance of providing migrants with a pathway to settle in Australia permanently.

“From what I heard today…we are on the same national unity ticket on the road to permanent residency,” he said.

I want to see the next generation of migrants come to regional Australia, not cross it. We are tired of people who just come in to pick crops or are part of the processing industry and come and go. We want them to live in regional Australia.

Ms Steggall reiterated that skills must be developed locally if Australia is to become a green energy and manufacturing powerhouse. She noted that Australia has one of the lowest investment in research and development, ranks 25e on the Global Innovation Index and suffers from a brain drain.

“[This]does not make us an attractive place for talent from around the world,” Ms Steggall said.

“When we talk about that, yes, there are the high-paying jobs, there are the lower-paying jobs, but there is also the question of what are the skills and what are we going to try to attract.

“Are we doing all we can locally before looking to the rest of the world? How we treat people when they come here is extremely important. We have too many engineers driving Uber right now and yet we lack the skills. »

Do you know more? Contact James Riley by email.

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