I recently attended the The Australian Business Review Global Food Forum in Melbourne where the issue of labour shortage was pretty much “top of the pops”.
During lunch I sat at a table chaired by the CEO La Manna Premier Group, Anthony Di Pietro, where we discussed the topic of ‘labour shortages’ and what could be done to address crippling labour shortages across the country. One idea floated in the brainstorming was for a representative collective from individual farmers, communities and businesses in the supply chain, right through to supermarkets and consumers, to run a full-page advertisement in The Australian to show how many people they each need to operate successfully. This advertisement would then show the available workforce in Australian, including unemployed and people on various government pensions and training schemes. It could also highlight obscene food waste occurring across the country because of labour shortages.
Australia needs more workers
Our discussion during the lunch focused on the agriculture sector. But we could have talked about construction, manufacturing, aged care, teaching and many other sectors. Because it doesn’t matter who you talk to – every business in every industry across Australia is facing staff shortages and this is not a problem that is going to go away.
Australia’s unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 39 years at 3.9%. And I heard somewhere that between now and 2026 Queensland will need 280,000 more workers. 280,000 workers in four years – that’s a lot of people.
482 visas are band-aid solutions to systemic labour shortages
Our current immigration policies are stop-gap and reactive and focused on rushing (often slowly) to address frontline worker shortages via 482 visas, the Pacific Islander Scheme and various agricultural schemes.
These band-aids solutions fail to address our need to attract skilled agronomists, project managers and animal health and wellbeing professionals. And this is just in the food supply chain.
Obviously, we need to keep these systems in place for now, but my considered view is that current visas are band aid solutions directed at the symptoms and not the root cause.
Long-term we need a sustainable, welcoming and efficient immigration system that encourages people to move to Australia.
Our immigration system is a bureaucratic nightmare
On a Current Affair (07/06/2022) there was a Scottish couple interviewed who have been here for 12 months and now, because of issues with their sponsorship arrangements, they are required to go home and then apply for residence! Ironically their teenage daughter wants to study Aged Care – this is definitely a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water!
My personal experience with the stupidity of the system was some years ago my son-in-law applied for residency when he married my daughter. The bureaucracy was mind blowing. John’s application took at least six ring binders of documentation, and he is and was a Scottish Physician specialising in M.S.!!
These are two examples – there are a litany of that highlight the stupidity and bureaucracy of our current system.
We need a streamlined, secure and welcoming immigration system
Our immigration system is an outdated and complex model that has grown organically with layers and layers of approvals and an enormous number of inefficiencies.
It will take some years, very bright minds and support from bipartisan leadership, but we need to advocate for an immediate, full systems review of our immigration policies.
We need to remove the layers and layers of approvals that have evolved historically and create a streamlined, secure and welcoming immigration system that encourages people to come to Australia.
This urgent and significant reform of our immigration systems will require a great deal of work by bright people who have the courage to see it through. I will be happy to be part of it.