Significant changes to Australia’s skilled migration program should deliver more migrant health workers to address workforce shortages in Australia’s private hospital system, according to the Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) CEO Michael Roff.
Mr Roff welcomed the Federal Government’s draft Review of the Migration System, which was released by Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil at a National Press Club Address. He said the report addressed many of the issues put forward by APHA.
“I was pleased to hear the Minister reference Australia’s need to compete in a global marketplace for skilled workers and that all temporary skilled workers will have a pathway to permanent residency by the end of the year.
“Australia has fallen behind in what it offers the workers we really need. For example, Canada rapidly moved to offer health workers easy pathways to residency as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, France and the UK have made similar arrangements. We are on the back foot and will have to catch up, just opening migration again has not been enough to entice people here," Mr Roff said.
“In the private hospital sector alone, there is a shortage of 8,000 nurses and we continue to compete globally for a health workforce. Having measures in place that will ensure an easy pathway to residency in Australia is a very welcome move.”
Mr Roff said he hoped the Federal Government would move swiftly to generate interest from skilled health workers to come to Australia.
In her speech, Minister O’Neil said the migration system as it stands was not serving Australians, migrants or the ambitions of the country.
“Migration will never substitute our focus on skilling-up Australians. It is not the full answer to any of these problems. But it is a part answer to all of them.
“If populate or perish described Australia’s challenge in the 1950s, skill-up or sink is the reality we face in the 2020s and beyond.
“Today, we aren’t bringing in the talent we need, and we aren’t making the most of the talent we’ve got,” she said in her address.
Some of the key announcements in the Minister's address included:
- Raising the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold from $53,900 to $70,000 to better reflect the roles highly skilled migrants will be applying for
- By the end of 2023, Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) short stream visa holders will have a pathway to permanent residency within our existing capped permanent program.
Mr Roff said Minister O’Neil’s speech also pointed to a difficult-to-manage visa application system impacting both employers and migrants. This is an issue raised by the Association, both in terms of red tape for employers and a fees charged to employers for sponsoring skilled migrant health workers. He hoped to see action to change this soon.
“Nurses come into Australia on visas that commit them to working in one part of the hospital – as a theatre nurse for example. If an opportunity came up to go into cardiac care, those nurses are not able to apply for that role. They may be well-qualified to work across different parts of a hospital but the inflexibility of the current visa conditions does not allow this to happen and that has to change.
"The red tape and bureaucracy attached to these processes is often ridiculous and always frustrating for both sides,” he said.
Mr Roff also welcomed the report’s recommendation to end labour market testing, which was a key recommendation of APHA’s submission and he also hopes that flexibility within the visa system will mean some key health workers, like psychiatrists, will have their overseas qualifications recognised faster.
“The draft framework is promising, and we look forward to continuing our work with Government as they develop their plan in the coming months,” Mr Roff said.