Coalition declares open immigration war on workers

A few weeks back, Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged that the federal government would restore Australia’s mass immigration program at the earliest possibility, noting that temporary migrants would be imported to fill jobs that locals supposedly don’t want to do:

“We must re-look at the role that temporary visa holders play in meeting our economy’s workforce requirements, where Australians do not fill these jobs”.

Shortly afterwards, Liberal MP Julian Leeser, who chairs a parliamentary committee looking into skilled migration, claimed that Australia is “facing a shortage of skilled labour almost unprecedented in our history, and we can solve this through skilled migration”.

Lesser’s committee has now handed down its Interim Report, which recommends fundamental changes to the ‘skilled’ migration system to give priority entry for foreign workers into Australia, as well as allow easy transition to permanently residency:

As a result of COVID-19, over 500,000 temporary visa holders left Australia resulting in significant skills shortages…

The Committee has heard repeatedly that skilled migrants create Australian jobs. Australia needs to replace the skilled migrants that left our shores as a result of the pandemic. Without the return of skilled migration, Australia’s economic recovery will be severely hampered and it will be harder to create more jobs for Australians…

Our challenge now, as we enter the next phase of Australia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, is to ensure we have streamlined processes to make it easier to get the skilled workers Australian businesses need…

Below are the key recommendations from the committee that would make it significantly easier and cheaper for employers to hire foreign workers over locals, would give foreign workers priority entry over stranded Australians, and would make it easy for migrants to become permanent residents:

Recommendation 1:

The Department of Home Affairs should streamline labour market testing to:

  • be less prescriptive about what constitutes labour market testing
  • only require Medium and Large businesses to conduct labour market testing;
  • require labour market testing for businesses headquartered outside Australia or businesses owned by someone who is not an Australian citizen;
  • remove the requirement for employers to advertise any occupations which are on the PMSOL or critical skills lists; and
  • remove the requirement for employers to advertise for all occupations classified as Skill Level 1 and 2 on the jobactive website…

Recommendation 2:

The Committee recommends that at least until the pandemic period is over, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment and the Department of Home Affairs remove the requirement for employers to pay the Skilling Australia Fund as part of the visa sponsorship process…

Recommendation 5:

The Committee recommends that the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List be expanded urgently to include Chefs, Veterinarians, Café and Restaurant Managers and Seafarers…

Recommendation 6:

The Committee recommends that the Department of Home Affairs conduct an urgent review of the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, with a view to expanding the number of occupations to better reflect the urgent skills shortages in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic recovery. The Department should give particular consideration to civil engineers, electrical engineers, motor mechanics, cooks, carpenters, electricians and other roles in the hospitality, health, trades, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

Recommendation 7:

The Committee recommends that the Short-term Skilled Occupation List, the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List and the Regional Occupation List be reviewed as soon as practicable to ensure that the lists most accurately reflect Australia’s employment challenges as the economy emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommendation 8:

The Committee recommends the Government reserve places on flights and in quarantine for skilled migrants.

Recommendation 9:

The Committee recommends that:

  • The Department of Home Affairs improve visa processing times for employer-sponsored visas because of the labour market needs during the COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery; and
  • The Department of Home Affairs expedite the processing times for skilled visa holders who have remained onshore in relevant employment seeking a subsequent skilled visa or permanent residency visa.

Recommendation 10:

The Committee recommends that all employer sponsored visa holders be given a clearer pathway to permanency…

Recommendation 12:

The Committee recommends that the BIIP and GTI provide options for both automatic permanent residence and temporary visas with a clearly articulated path to permanent residence.

Make no mistake. This is the biggest direct assault on Australian workers I have seen in 10 years of writing at MB.

If these reforms were to pass they would enable almost any employer in Australia to hire foreign workers over locals, would give these foreign workers priority access to flights and quarantine over stranded Australians, and would offer prospective migrants the explicit carrot of easy permanent residency.

These reforms have the potential to flood Australia with foreign workers, in turn destroying worker bargaining power and crushing wages at a time when wage growth is already the lowest in history and the share of the economy’s income going to workers is at historical lows:

Australian workers’ share of national income is tracking near historical lows.

These reforms are an employers’ and capitalists’ dream, but represent an unmitigated disaster for working Australians who face the prospect of increased job competition from low-paid migrants, lower wages, as well as crush-loaded cities, infrastructure and housing.

Unions and Labor Opposed:

The union movement and Labor are rightfully up in arms over the recommendations, labelling them a “disgrace” and an “attack on Australian values”:

“While thousands of Australians are still stranded overseas, the government is considering putting them at the end of the queue behind foreign workers who can be easily exploited. This is an attack on Australian values. It is a disgrace.

“After destroying TAFE, the government now wants to plug the skills gap by importing thousands of people who can’t enforce their labour rights and are easily exploited” [Electrical Trades Union National Secretary Allen Hicks said]…

“These recommendations represent the wrong set of priorities for this moment,” [Daniel Walton from the Australian Workers’ Union said].

“Million of Australians are champing at the bit for opportunities, and their government wants to make it easier for local employers to look past them”.

“If you want to fly workers in from overseas, you should have to advertise properly here first. That’s a fundamental principle and it’s remarkable the government wants to get rid of it.”

Labor MP Julian Hill, who sits on the committee, said the recommendations were “outrageous”.

“This is ill-conceived and appallingly timed,” Mr Hill said, “This government-controlled committee has made recommendations that will clearly undermine the ability of Australians to get jobs by making it easier for businesses to bring in foreign workers. There’s a timing issue here.”

Labor and the Greens must unite against these reforms in strongest possible way.

Australia already suffered a decade of stagnating real wage growth on the back of mass immigration. These reforms would be a final fatal blow for Australian wages and living standards.

Unconventional Economist
Latest posts by Unconventional Economist (see all)


  1. Unbelievable.
    Problem is Labor is just as pro third world intake as migrant guestworkers as well.

    Roy Morgan unemployment & seeking work is 3 million.
    That’s right 3 million unemployed or seeking work.

    Fact check:

    March 07 2021 Finding No. 8642 Country:
    Latest Roy Morgan employment series data shows 1.93 million Australians unemployed in February (up 250,000 on January).
    Unemployment increased in February as Australians began looking for work:
    1,930,000 Australians were unemployed (13.2% of the workforce), up 250,000 from January.
    There were also more people looking for full-time work (up 98,000 to 790,000), and part-time work (up 152,000 to 1,140,000).

    • To do what exactly? PHON has had the perfect opportunity to use her power in the Senate to force the govt to act on immigration if they want to pass any legislation. She hasn’t used that.
      Why you may ask – when she clearly says she wants to lower immigration?
      She knows that the status quo works just fine for her – cushy gig, every so often she gets more support for people who support lower immigration and don’t want to vote for the major parties. Very disappointing – anyone who gives her/PHON first preference should really take that up with her/the party as its basically voting for the Libs they way that they currently vote/act…

      • Doesn’t matter.
        She’s just a messaging device and isn’t going to push for increases to undesireable immigration types such as those for unskilled jobs.
        She’s also the only one that advocates for more local manufacturing.

        • Again – she has the power to not allow the govt to pass legislation until and unless they vote with her on immigration, local manufacturing and chinese ownership of critical assets like ports etc but does NOTHING! If she takes those policies and fights for them she will probably get a lot more support but the gig is too cushy to risk anything like that.
          Vote PHON slogan for the next election- “I’ll pretend to do something about immigration AND local manufacturing but really want to keep the status quo.”

          • No party does all the stuff with one person.
            It takes a team and division of work.
            Name another party that has potential for more traction.
            SAP is too sissy and Katter hasn’t excelled in these areas either (also a homophobe cvnt, p.auline is more benign).

          • Katter never pushed hard on immigration. He is all about FNQ and that is pretty much it.
            PHON has always talked about immigration but when push comes to shove does jack all.
            As someone who has previously voted PHON – she has been disappointing to say the least. Real independents (Jackie Lambie) are the only hope but until then pick your poison.

      • Only what you say.

        Who ever *you* are voting for says they’ll fill the country with leppers.

    • I just read that and all I could think about apart from the blatant bleating for a handout was do we really need to provide an opportunity for a South American to come to Australia to learn English so that she can hopefully become a film make up artist here? There’s a philosophical conversation to have about migration right there. For someone who wants to migrate here for such a ‘luxury’ employment (as in that job is not wholly necessary for the survival of our species or society) do we even provide those opportunities? If we say yes, then do we expect that they come already partially prepared for life here, i.e. have basic to intermediate English language skills because it’s not like you can’t learn a foreign language in your own country these days? How much of a human right is the right to migrate? If it is a human right then shouldn’t the UN be making sure that all countries provide that right? Or is it like marriage and intimate relationships we can all be as rcist and culturalist as we want with no discussion around it because it is a fundamentally intimate issue?

  2. Brings to mind certain WW1 battle fields where you got mowed down by machine gun fire.

    Everyone in the Aussie precariate class should be doing their best to make their situation as resilient as possible during the next 18 months, and the smart ones will have started this process over 6 months ago. I think those that stayed on JK and didn’t do anything to re-skill or orient themselves to different industries may have made a tactical mistake.

    • No Skills shortagesMEMBER

      There are very few real skills shortages, just a shortage of workers for low wages. OS workers receiving low or even underpaid wages, as it comes (if recommended by this committee) with prospective Permanent Residency.

      And what industry is there left to reskill into – the ones with any sort of so called “skills shortages” are about to be flooded under this plan.
      Nurses, IT workers, Aged Care workers, fruit pickers? All to be flooded.

      • It’s a tough one. That’s why if you’re note employed atm getting a job and trying to get yourself entrenched in that company/industry is important as there is still a window of opportunity. There are areas of employment where you can insulate yourself to a certain degree which is what I did by becoming a pool life guard as direct competition from newly arrived migrants is almost zero, and while there are a few barriers to entry, they aren’t huge. Plus if you’re in metro Melb atm, there is an absolute shortage as many people did not re-qualify last year. But generally speaking even if you are in industries like hospitality if you can show yourself to be a reliable and good employee there are still some employers who will want to hire you so it is not all doom, you just have to find the right place (speaking from personal experience here).

        But I was also referring to other aspects of resilience like getting your finances in order, improving your health and dealing with any other issues/vulnerabilities a person may have etc.

  3. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Anything that can bring down our astronomically high wages is a good thing! Australia lacks the advantage the USA gets with their working poor. If importing desperate foreigners keen to do anything for a buck achieves this for Aus we must pursue it.

    Also, the relations lounges need fresh girls. I was getting bored of the same rotation at my favourite relaxation shop so tried a new shop only to see the same old girls come out to say hello as I’ve seen in other shops. Look, they were all bubbly and happy to see me because they knew what was coming but I was instantly bored. I had to lounge with three of them just to get a kick.

  4. Poochie the Rockin Dog

    Like it will make any difference – all these recommendations are irrelevant as it’s already how the program is running. They just won’t have to put up the fake ad.

    • Spot on. We are witnessing the demise of post enlightenment Australia. It had been happening for years. The big Australia shills will not be happy until everyone is on Bihar wages. Already it really isn’t worthwhile working. Much better to speculate.

  5. We’re being lashed tight to the elite’s Grand Theft Australia plan of becoming Argentina with Asian characteristics.

  6. It is honestly beyond baffling that they would even consider presenting this at this point. This is a vote losing strategy, through and through. With all the the problems the LNP have going on right now, they should be advocating vote winning immigration cuts to boost their chances in the next election. Do these people not have advisors who speak to the electorate? Immigration should be zero for at least the next 3 years to balance the labour market and allow Australians to upskill.
    The “skilled migrants create Australian jobs” mantra is ridiculous and the fact that Leeser keeps mentioning that he has “heard” this many times from businesses is laughable. Let us hope and pray to the gods that these “recommendations” are flatly rejected by Dutton.

    • SchillersMEMBER

      It’s neither a vote losing nor vote winning strategy as all parties are in furious lock step with it’s essential tenet: mass immigration is good and more immigration is better than less.
      Simple. No “swinging voter” at the next election will be presented with choice.

      • So how is it possible that this void is not captured by a third party (e.g. UKIP in the UK before Brexit)?

  7. desmodromicMEMBER

    Just now, ANU ‘demographer’ Dr Liz Allen on the ABC News spruiking high rates of immigration, else ‘our standard of living will fall’.

    Why does the ABC keep giving her views air time with no context, and unchallenged?

  8. Friend of mine migrated to Aust from China for a better quality of life, despite our relatively low wages. Was shocked to find out just how low they are and promptly left… to the US.

    I think only people from truly miserable countries are going to want to come (and stay) here.

  9. Jumping jack flash

    The fools.
    They really want to put the country back on the path to the slow deflation of 2019 which was on the verge of ruining everything. Why they do this?

    The COVID stimulus had so much potential to get the banks’ system working properly (again). Once in a lifetime golden opportunity is quickly becoming a wasted opportunity. Wasted because our all powerful leaders with planet-sized brains don’t actually understand how the system is meant to work. Why would they even need to care?

    Why aren’t the banks tapping these clowns on the shoulders and raising an eyebrow? At the end of the day the banks are in charge of the economy.
    Immigrants can’t take on the required amounts of debt with the amounts they get paid. How can the banks sell more of their debt if nobody can afford the volumes that are required?

    2019 was proof that wage theft and trickle-up doesn’t work to grow the debt at the required rate, requiring weirder and wilder economic contortions to try and grow the debt.

    It just makes no sense at all.

    You’d think they could wait until the 2 trillion US stimulus starts flowing out after being leveraged at 95% LVR.
    You’d think they could even wait until the NEXT drop of 4 trillion dollars starts getting leveraged.

    Imbeciles, the lot of them.

  10. Without defining ‘immigration’ this analysis avoids the elephant in the room that is slowly approaching and emerging.

    The trend is that we have an ageing permanent population with increasing numbers of retirees/pensioners (LNP constituency), proportionately few taxpayers in the workforce; without net financial contributor churn over of temps how can pensions and retirement benefits be maintained and expanded for permanent population?

    Cut services and/or increase taxes, while the LNP, IPA, MB etc. wish to nobble efficient industry super on behalf of retail funds run by banks pushing more people to state pensions (with increasing hurdles for eligibility)?

    What sort of society does Australia wish to be in future, an immigrant free, libertarian and white Christian nationalist reflecting the current values promoted by the GOP, NewsCorp and Koch Network think tanks, then being knocked off and presented as original in Oz?

    • Easily actually as the cost of an ageing, stable population are less than the costs of a fast growing one (there is research put up here recently to that effect). High immigration won’t make much difference to the dependency ratio either. And even if we stopped immigration (hardly anyone is suggesting that) we won’t be ‘white, Christian’, etc given the high proportion of different races and religions already here.

      • Firstly you ignore the basic statistical and undeniable fact, like elsewhere, populations are ageing, leading to lower dependency ratios of tax paying workers to retirees; relative decline in the former and increase in the latter. Basic mathematics.

        Any evidence for that claim while not understanding the nature of our ‘immigration’ in recent decades (since 2006) nor dependency ratios, then kicking the can down the road for younger generations? You are happy to watch future generations of workers pay more significant taxes for fewer services in their retirement later, in catering to baby boomers and oldies now?

        Afraid MB’s in house research defies basic principles of statistics 101 round population/immigration, in its need to promote catastrophic predictions via Malthusian population principles as promoted by Paul ‘population bomb’ Ehrlich, Dick Smith, Bob Carr, Bob Birrell and now deceased but infamous white nationalist John ‘passive eugenics’ Tanton; not supported by grounded research, data nor analysis anywhere vs. the ‘Anglosphere’ of Oz, US and UK by white nativists masquerading as concerned environmentalists to protect fossil fuels and our ‘culture’…..

        Permanent migration annual intake is max’m 0.5% of the estimated population under the cap (many are already onshore and counted in via NOM, far less than the proportion of e.g. post WWII migrants), but dwarfed by temporary migration ‘churn over’ caught via the NOM, but majority have no access to permanent residency nor related state benefits. However, the latter who pay fees, work, rent, shop etc. contribute to the economy and tax system without accessing benefits, hence, described as ‘net financial contributors’ to budgets used to support our burgeoning retiree bubble.

        Worse, MB like Grattan Institute etc. promote spurious benefits of nobbling superannuation by claiming any increase in the guarantee would impair future wage increases; in an environment where most employees have had no real increase in income but stagnation, for several years now.

        Fine, so everyone goes on the state pension for following generations to pay more taxes and receive fewer benefits in pensions and/or services; seems like a nativist ‘libertarian’ trap masquerading as conservatism…..

        • The permanent intake is closer to 1% than 0.5% of the population. And I didn’t ‘ignore’ the ageing population – I just said is better to adapt. Look at how good things are on the ground in Japan with it’s falling population. The costs and problems are overblown whereas the cost of high immigration (eg infrastructure) are ignored by you. Also if you new much about demographics you would know that high immigration makes little difference to the age structure in the medium to long term:

          • I agree. Japan does fine. The problems really arrive in the last year of life IMHO.

        • “You are happy to watch future generations of workers pay more significant taxes for fewer services in their retirement later, in catering to baby boomers and oldies now?”
          Well that’s ironic given that the baby boomer bulge is largely the result of previous waves of immigration.