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Federal Migration Strategy a positive step forward?

Voices for the hospitality, accommodation and property sectors react to the Government’s new Migration Strategy

The nation’s peak hospitality associations have welcomed the Federal Government’s new Migration Strategy as a “positive step forward” but look forward to further consultation on issues such as the chronic labour shortage in regional areas and changes to student visas. While The Property Council of Australia urges a sharper focus on the mix of skilled migrants coming into Australia. 

This week, the Government’s long-awaited migration strategy has been announced, it promises big changes and aims “to build a migration system that earns the trust and confidence of our citizens”, or what the government calls, “rebuilding the social licence”.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the system had been “deliberately neglected over a decade” and pledged to close backdoors that allowed people to “visa jump” and attend “ghost colleges” while pathways for much-needed highly skilled migrants remained convoluted and time-consuming. The review sets out a pathway to divert more temporary work migrants into the region, prioritising their application.

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Both the Australian Hotels Association and Accommodation Australia said the industry would now work closely with the Government on the implementation of the strategy.

Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson said the Migration Strategy “implements a number of reforms which will improve the system, while recognising more work needs to be done.”

“The new three-tiered ‘Skills in Demand’ visa to be developed will bring with it the benefit of a more streamlined approach including to the current ineffective labour market testing requirement,” Mr Johnson said. 

“Also, the new seven-day turn-around for top tier workers above a new salary threshold of $135,000 is particularly welcome – as it will give better access to highly skilled migrants, including much needed hotel and accommodation managers

“The recognition of the importance of the Working Holiday Maker visa, particularly to regional Australia, is also evident in the strategy and we look forward to working closely with Government on its ongoing reviews.”

Mr Johnson said potential areas of concern included the emphasis on the mobility of employer-sponsored temporary visas – as government fees are often only a minor part of the total cost that an employer has outlaid to sponsor a migrant.   

“Changes to the international student visa will also be closely watched by the hotel industry as students are an important part of our hotel workforce,” he said.  

AHA CEO Stephen Ferguson said access to an effective migration program is critically important to the hotel industry nationwide. 

Stephen Ferguson

“Of course, we want to hire Australian workers first, but the fact is the size of our industry is such that there are huge gaps in skilled roles such as chefs we are unable to fill without overseas workers – especially in the bush,” he said. 

“Ensuring we have a sufficient supply of skills in the regions is absolutely critical for the hotel sector, so we are pleased to see skilled visa processing for the regions has been given the highest priority by the Government today.

“That said, the current requirement for backpackers to spend 88 days in regional areas when applying for a second-year visa is absolutely critical for the hospitality and accommodation industries and we look forward to participating in the government’s review of this requirement.

“The migration strategy released today is a positive step forward in building a better system that works for business and the community and we look forward to taking part in reviews to make the system even fairer for all.”

The Property Council also reacts to the new Migration Strategy

The Property Council of Australia wants a sharper focus on the mix of skilled migrants coming into Australia to ensure that industry has the labour capacity to deliver the 1.2 million new homes demanded by the National Cabinet. 

Despite the proposed balanced reduction in migration numbers by 185,000 by 2027, a clear focus on skills shortages and labour market analysis by Jobs and Skills Australia is welcomed. 

Mike Zorbas, Chief Executive, The Property Council of Australia

Property Council Chief Executive Mike Zorbas said market capacity and labour scarcity are the key construction cost drivers to the end of the decade and these could not be solved by training and apprenticeships programs alone. 

“Adjusting up the mix of skilled migrants in a smaller intake with a greater emphasis on construction trades is vital for building Australia’s future homes,” Mr Zorbas said.  

“The Property Council looks forward to working with Jobs and Skills Australia to ensure that this occurs. We have one shot at getting our housing crisis under control. 

“Over the past 20 years, only 1.8 percent of permanent migrants have arrived employed in construction trades and these trades are not in the top 10 occupations for either permanent or temporary migration.  

“Every 1,000 new skilled migrants who come to Australia bring $120 million in economic benefits. 

“Given the benefits that skilled migration brings the nation, today’s announcement is a down payment, a temporary slowing of migration, that must be followed by a clear and targeted focus on welcoming the right workers who will build the homes we need. 

“In Victoria alone, to deliver the state government’s ambitious target of 80,000 new homes every year across the next decade will require another 191,000 people in the construction workforce by 2034,” he said.

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