Whilst the world’s focus has shifted from pandemic to the war in the Ukraine and the ongoing impacts of Australia’s inclement weather, the country is still suffering from the previous pandemic panic mode of the government and bureaucracy.

The Probuild fiasco is only the first indication that actions taken in the pandemic are going to have unintended consequences long into the future. The lack of sensible action in addressing our worker shortage is another. Why, when businesses are crying out for skilled workers which include international students now granted full work rights, are visas being refused left right and centre? And why are tourists being let in before skilled workers – why not both together?  Ironically we were waiting for one type of visitor visa to be obtained for a client who had been waiting 5 months already, having answered a request for further information from Home Affairs, only to be superceded by the grant of another type of visitor visa as soon as borders opened within 3 days of application.  There is no consistency at all.

Here are two examples of how Australia was very nearly let down by inaction.

A temporary skilled sponsored 482 visa applicant was granted a visa just in the nick of time to save a $600K contract from going under for a Sydney based  IT company. He’d waited so long for his travel exemption, he was about to take a job with a large company offering him a higher salary in the UK, not Australia.  Australia’s gain, UK’s loss, but only just.

A childcare centre – just pause to consider for a moment how critical childcare is in enabling other people to go to work – has found the perfect manager for their business, who hails from Ireland. But while a big deal was made about tourists returning to Australia the business has had to enlist the help of their local MP to get their candidate into the country.  Despite the MP and Immigration Minister Hawke’s intervention on their behalf, the response from the Department has been that ‘the application was lodged in November 2021 and we envisage will take a further 2-3 months to finalise’.  What the? The application is decision ready.  This is just not good enough Prime Minister.

Ironically the international education industry, part of the immigration industry, is also suffering from staff shortages. Education agents have long relied on the pool of skilled workers who usually came here as working holidaymakers or international students. Without them and with inaction from the government, outcomes like the ones above simply won’t happen.  The once $40 billion industry providing 240,000 jobs for Australians is still struggling to get back on its feet.

Rather than reactive panicky band aid measures like “go home students” then “come back and work full time” we need our leaders to stop being political and have some vision for once.  Put political machinations aside and start making and implementing plans… it’s what businesses have to do, why not government?

It’s wonderful that the government has granted 6 months’ visa extensions to Ukrainian citizens to remain in the safe environment that our country affords.

In the meantime though it’s time to stop panicking and get our skilled migration programs back on track for the good of Australia.

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