“The idea that you train someone and bring them out here for a couple of years and then go and try and find someone else to do the same job is, in my view, incredibly inefficient and part of why the industrial relations system is undermined.
“Far better to give someone a sense of ownership and a stake in this country. We are, with the exception of First Nations people, all migrants or descendants of migrants.”
The union movement has indicated it will accept a migrant boost to address immediate shortages, but only in return for bigger investment in the skills and training of local people.
Higher wages for skilled migrants
There will also be mandated higher wages for skilled temporary migrants to stop them being used to undercut local workers, and possible in return for relaxing labor market testing.
The Australian Financial Review has reported the minimum wage for such a migrant will increase from $53,900, where it has been stuck since 2013, to $65,000.
Underscoring the political sensitivity of an increased migrant intake, the Business Council of Australia has shelved its demand for a specific number of migrants.
“The crucial thing at the summit is that we don’t get bogged down on the discussion about the number,” BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean said the jobs summit was quickly becoming a union-dominated talkfest.
“We want given priority to the return of international students, as well as short-term holidaymakers who would support the revival of a tourism industry hit hard by border closures,” he said.
In March this year, then-prime minister Scott Morrison indicated a preparedness to lift the migrant intake but said there was no rush, given migration stopped during the COVID-19 years and it would take some time just to reach 160,000.
Mr Morrison told The Australian Financial Review Business Summit, “You just don’t turn the tap on and all of a sudden, 160,000 people turn up next week.
“It will take time, just like it will in the tourism market, just like it will in the student market, for these inflows of people to build up again,” he said.
“I don’t see us threatening the caps that have been in place, certainly not in the year that comes, and we’ll monitor that very closely.”
Mr Albanese said Mr Morrison was to blame because temporary skilled migrants and foreign students were not given income support like JobKeeper, and they left en masse.
“It probably wasn’t the wisest decision during the pandemic to tell everyone who was a temporary visa holder to leave,” he said.
“And to provide them with no income and no support, which means many of them have left with ill feeling towards Australia, and that spreads around.
“We’ve got a globalized labor market. And we need to enhance our reputation.”