Treasurer Jim Chalmers says an increase to migration numbers is not the only solution to skills shortages, as businesses and unions prepare to come together for the government’s jobs and skills summit.
The two-day summit, announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday, will be held on the first two days of September, bringing together more than 100 people from a range of industries.
The treasurer has indicated there was the opportunity for ideas raised at the summit, a key election commitment, to be used as soon as October’s federal budget.
But while business groups have been calling for a rise in skilled migration numbers in a bid to relieve workforce shortages, Dr Chalmers said that was not the only solution to the issue.
“As we emerge from that period of COVID, where the migration tap was largely turned off, that should be an opportunity to talk about the best mix of migration as the program gathers speed again,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday
“I would caution people against thinking that migration is the solution to all of our economic challenges. That’s part of the story but it’s not the whole story and it shouldn’t be a substitute for training Australians for roles.”
The treasurer said the summit would be critical following years of stagnant wages growth.
Dr Chalmers said it was important for the summit to bring as many people together to tackle issues facing jobs and workers.
Among them was the ability of employers to cancel enterprise bargaining agreements without consultation, an area which Dr Chalmers said was an issue.
“The tearing up of agreements has been a problem in our industrial relations architecture for some time,” he said.
“It’s one of the reasons why I do think we need to have a look at bargaining and one of the reason why we haven’t had the wages growth that we would have liked to have seen for some time now.”
Meanwhile, Mr Albanese has not ruled out opposition input at September’s summit, responding “who says they’re not?” when asked why they hadn’t been invited.
“We’ve announced when the jobs summit will be. We haven’t announced an attendance list. We’ll consider those things in the fullness of time,” Mr Albanese told reporters.
It follows criticism from deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley, who said the summit “does nothing” to address job-related challenges, adding the government should “save everyone the trip to Canberra”.
But shadow treasurer Angus Taylor took a different view, saying the summit could only be taken seriously if the opposition was invited.
“If the government is serious about building genuine consensus behind the summit and the resulting white paper, they must ensure parliamentarians from all parties, including the opposition, have a seat around the table in September,” he said.