Liberal MP Julian Leeser, who chairs a parliamentary committee looking into skilled migration, appeared on Sky News (video below) where he argued that flights and quarantine places should be reserved for skilled migrants “to get businesses moving again”:
“I think there is a strong view among business that it [the skilled visa system] has become too complex…
“We’re looking at two key aspects:
One, what can we do to get the economy restarted post COVID…
“Two, what are the things that businesses are saying to us about the migration program that is making it difficult? Some of the issues around skills lists, some of the issues around the terms and conditions around visas, some of the red tape are questions that we will be visiting… And we will be talking to people from the hospitality industry, from the interactive gaming industry and from healthcare.
“But right across the economy we are hearing that there are real issues in relation to businesses getting the skills that they need here in Australia. During the course of COVID, we’ve lost half a million temporary visa holders. Many of those people are skilled migrants. And they are skills that just don’t exist across Australia. We need to get them back to get Australian businesses moving again…”
Here’s a genuine question for Julian Leeser and his bogus parliamentary inquiry: have they consulted parties other than the business lobby?
Because businesses will always claim that they cannot get the skills they need at the cost (wages) that they want to pay. Over the past 20 years, regardless of how the economy was tracking or how many migrant workers were imported, the business lobby always cried shortage.
If the inquiry had bothered to consult the union movement or labour market economists, they would have learned that there is no pervasive skills shortage “right across the economy”. If there was then wages would be rising at a solid clip rather that at the slowest pace on record:
In any market, a shortage of a good or service results in price increases to ration the available supply.
Therefore, if there was genuinely a shortage of workers in Australia, then labour prices in the form of wages should be rising strongly. The fact that the opposite is the case necessarily means that Australia is suffering from an oversupply of labour. The economics does not lie.
Further evidence of the skills shortage myth is illustrated by the share of the economy’s income going to workers, which is tracking around historical lows:
If there was a pervasive shortage of workers, then their share of the national income would have risen rather than fallen.
In any event, if Australian businesses are having trouble finding staff, there is a simple solution: offer higher wages. Let the market do its job and let wages rise to solve any purported labour shortages.
The Coalition’s proposed immigration reforms would be an employers’ and capitalists’ wet dream, but a disaster for working Australians who face increased job competition from low-paid migrants, lower wages, as well as crush-loaded cities, infrastructure and housing.
Australians have already suffered a decade of stagnating real wage growth on the back of mass immigration. The Coalition’s reforms would be a fatal final blow for wages and living standards.