Coalition’s ‘skilled’ visas changes fail pub test

The Morrison Government has signaled loud and clear that it will ramp-up ‘skilled’ migration at the earliest opportunity.

The Government’s Interim Report of the Inquiry into Australia’s Skilled Migration Program recommended opening the migrant floodgates via:

  • Abolishing labour market testing requirements.
  • Lowering costs and speeding up approval times for importing foreign workers.
  • Expanding the skilled occupation list to include almost any role.
  • Providing all ‘skilled’ visa holders with a clear pathway for transition to permanent residency.
  • Granting ‘skilled’ visa holders priority access to flights and hotel quarantine ahead of stranded Australians.

In announcing these recommendations Liberal MP Julian Leeser declared:

 “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…”

Earlier this week, the Morrison Government added an extra 22 occupations to the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL), namely:

  • Accountant (General) (221111)
  • Accountant (Taxation) (221113)
  • Accountant (Management) (221112)
  • External Auditor (221213)
  • Internal Auditor (221214)
  • Electrical Engineer (233311)
  • Civil Engineer (233211)
  • Structural Engineer (233214)
  • Geotechnical Engineer (233212)
  • Transport Engineer (233215)
  • Mining Engineer (233611)
  • Petroleum Engineer (233612)
  • Surveyor (232212)
  • Cartographer (232213)
  • Other Spatial Scientist (232214)
  • Medical Laboratory Scientist (234611)
  • Orthotist / Prosthetist (251912)
  • Multimedia Specialist (261211)
  • Analyst Programmer (261311)
  • Software and Applications Programmers (261399)
  • ICT Security Specialist (262112)
  • Chef (351311)

Occupations on the list, which now total 41, will be given priority processing for migration and travel exemptions. In turn, they will be granted priority access to quarantine places.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the changes had been developed with the help of feedback from “Australian business stakeholders”, who obviously wish to pay lower wages and have more consumers to sell to.

I noted on Wednesday that the inclusion of accountants to this list is especially peculiar.  Accountants were the main occupation to receive permanent residency visas last financial year:

Permanent residency visas 2019-20

Accountants received the most permanent residency visas 2019-20.

The Grattan Institute’s recent skilled migration report also showed that the migration system has been ruthlessly exploited by accountants:

Current occupation lists, which notionally target skills shortages, do not prioritise migrants in high-skill, high-wage occupations likely to best benefit the Australian community. Further, occupation lists are not well placed to identify skills shortages, since relevant data on wages are not available at a sufficiently detailed level. Instead, occupation lists are heavily shaped by vested interests…

The most prominent contemporary example is accounting. In SkillSelect, there are tens of thousands of prospective skilled workers qualified in accountancy. As Figure 7.11 shows, the number of expressions of interest for a points-tested visa submitted by qualified accountants is equivalent to roughly one fourth of the total number of accountants employed in Australia today. People appear to be studying accountancy because it is on the list.

Accountant visas

Skilled visa farce

Yet, CPA Australia general manager of external affairs Dr Jane Rennie continues to complain of shortages:

“Australia faces a growing shortage of accountants. But it’s not just here; accounting professionals are in high demand globally and there is competition to attract them,” said Dr Rennie.

“Unless this skills shortage is addressed, Australian businesses and the economy will suffer.

“By increasing opportunities for international accounting professionals and students to live and work in Australia, we are creating a pipeline of accounting talent which will stand the nation in good stead.”

The federal government’s own historical skills shortage list reveals that accountants have not been in shortage since 2008 (13 years ago). Registered Nurses have not been in shortage since 2011 (10 years ago). Chefs have not been in shortage since 2015 (6 years ago). And Cooks haven’t been in shortage since 2013 (8 years ago).

Given there were zero shortages in these occupations, according to the federal government’s own data, why did we hand out permanent residency to these workers? And why have accountants and chefs now been given priority entry via the PMSOL?

Other occupations added to the PSOL are equally baffling. For example:

  • External auditors have not been in official shortage since 2008.
  • Electrical engineers have not been in shortage since 2012.
  • Civil engineers have not been in shortage since 2012.

For mine, including chefs on the PSOL is the most galling given how poorly they are paid:

Chef income

Chefs are poorly paid in Australia.

If chefs are in such short supply, why aren’t they being paid more?

What all this shows is that the ‘skilled’ visa system is a farce that bares little resemblance to actual skills shortages being experienced across the economy. The skilled occupation lists, and by extension migration intake, are based first and foremost on lobbying by vested interests.

It’s time to cut through the bull and require all work visas (other than the well-regulated Pacific Islands Seasonal Work Program) to be paid at least at the 75th percentile of earnings (preferably higher). This would equate to a minimum salary of $90,500 currently, which would rise over time with earnings:

How much Australians earn

The 75th percentile would set a migrant pay floor of $90,500, which would rise in line with earnings.

Setting a pay floor at this level would ensure that work visas are used sparingly by Australian businesses to employ only highly skilled migrants with specialised skills, not abused by businesses as a tool for undercutting local workers, reducing wage costs, and eliminating the need for training.

Labor should stamp up for Australian workers and take such a policy to the upcoming federal election. Does it want to govern or not?

Unconventional Economist
Latest posts by Unconventional Economist (see all)


  1. Of course Labor wants to govern. Just as soon as recalcitrant voters come round to the correct party-endorsed views on China and mass migration.

  2. Supply and demand doesnt seem to matter to these people who decrie shortages of accountants, yet they are probably worse off coming here, but they can become Uber drivers to double their pay.

  3. The accountant shortage is such bullsh1t. Every fcking Uber I’ve ever caught has been driven by an Indian accountant who can’t find work.

    And as for the shortage of engineers…an even bigger joke.

  4. Roy Morgan
    June 04 2021 Finding No. 8722

    Australian unemployed 1.49 million or 10.3%

    Latest Roy Morgan employment series data shows 1.49 million Australians unemployed in May – up 186,000 on April for an unemployment rate of 10.3% with the increase somewhat offset by a fall in under-employment which dropped 101,000 in May to 1,256,000 (8.6%).
    There is no case, zero statistical evidence for once again flooding Australia with third world migrant unskilled whilst 1.5 million Australians remain unemployed.

    In fact the statistical evidence points to the need to restrict migrant intake, and to actively vet & deport over 2.2 million foreign nationals on Temporary or SCV visa holders in Australia – back to their home countries.
    The majority who have entered Australia on a visa pretext to live & work illegally here.

    🔻Foreign students & partners / over 680,000 yet they vast majority are without funds, on pretext courses, and in flagrant breach of their visa and COe. Not an export, they enter in loan debt only to work & live illegally, their money is earned here & is sent out of Australia to repay agent procurer debt & as remittances.

    🔻NZ SCV visa holders, 656,000 with over half being non NZ born third world unskilled using NZ as a loophole to enter.

    🔻346,000 Protection visa holders, over 90% found fraudulent, using the AAT as an excuse to extended their stay by up to 5 years with full work rights.

    🔻141,000 Skilled / Employer visa holders & dependents, with less than 8,500 genuinely skilled earning more than an Australian average wage.
    And so on.

    ▫️Stealing over 1.5 million Australian’s jobs

    ▫️Lowering all Australians wages

    ▫️Stealing Australians housing / the mass eviction of over half a million Australians from low cost rental accommodation onto the street (116,000 Australian permanent homeless and another 340,000 Australians seeking affordable housing) to convert those ex Australians dwellings into foreign dirty money acquired dwellings converted to cash in hand bunk slum share for over 2 million migrant foreign nationals.
    ▫️Degrading our education & opportunities for Australians as the education sector prostituted itself as a migrant guestworker visa alibi.
    ▫️Lowering our gdp per Capita
    ▫️Reducing our major cities into fetid migrant only ghettos in exact replicas of Guangzhou & Mumbai.


    Aside from the economic and social impacts of the 2.2 million foreign nationals as Temporary or SCV holders, they also prove to be a major bio security risk to Australians.

    Time after time again we have seen the migrant intake bringing in the virus & then the onshore foreign nationals working illegally as both the virus incubation hub & virus transmission vector to infect Australians.

    What’s needed.

    🔹Shut the borders to everyone but Australian born citizens. No migrant intake until Australian unemployment levels are below 5% unemployed.

    🔹Nationwide enforcement of visa & COe obligations.

    🔹Mass roundup of the Sydney & Melbourne foreign nationals in visa & COe breach.

    🔹Forcible deportation of the foreign national migrant guestworker burden. At least 2 million need to be exited.

    🔹Rehabilitation of the Sydney & Melbourne migrant ghettos with that housing disinfected / cleansed, and then returned back to Australian occupancy.

  5. That whole accountants in short supply is total crap. The big boys in town always say there’s a shortage. They have done so since 1990! It’s all made up statistics. Why would anyone employ “overseas tax accountants?”
    Half the accounting profession send their work to the Phillipines/Vietnam/India anyway. Total hypocrites. They don’t send it there because of shortages they send it there to make super profits. Clients do not see any benefit, in fact most of the offshore work is total crap & expensive when billed back to the client.
    As for Engineer shortages – seriously they are taking the p$ss!

  6. I'll have anotherMEMBER

    I posted this a couple days late in the first article on this issue and thought I would repost for those interested as 3 of the professions, Spatial Scientist, Surveyor and Cartographer are professions I have an intimate knowledge on. So, Leith, you can add these professions to the list of no skill shortages too mate. Also, work with Civil Engineers daily. There is no skill shortage here either. They churn and burn grads by the thousands at a rate of knots in Civ Eng. And already are swamped by overseas graduates. Again, the issue might be with Charted Civil Design Engineers, which none of the immigration influx will be eligible as.

    Cheaper Civil Engineers and Surveyors mean cheap public infrastructure at the cost of a fair and reasonable wage to Australian trained Surveyors and Civil Engineers. This is the governments mantra, as told to them via their 1 contractors.

    All of which is nonsense, it just means increased profits to the contractor and added Costs to the public due to the inept Surveyors and Engineers.

    Honestly, why anyone would complete a 4 year degree in Survey or Civil Eng these days is beyond me. A Surveyor is on average 15 years from achieving entrepreneur status and a civil engineer will never be able to afford the P.I. alone in design so is limited to construction consulting if he wishes to go down a similar path. Far better off studying medicine and going on with a speciality than getting involved in either. In the case of site based civil eng, the hours are better in medicine too believe it or not.

    To be clear, as per recent August report from the Surveying Board of Queensland: There is NO shortage of associate / technician Surveyors.

    There is a shortage of Registered Cadastral Surveyors.

    You cannot become a registered cadastral surveyor without Australian gained university education in cadastral, planning and surveying law particular to the state you are practicing in.

    It also doesn’t allow for immediate registration even if you had these articles. You are required to complete different types of projects: subdivision, urban, rural, engineering etc. before the board will even asses you for registration.

    Cartographer, Spatial Scientist and Surveyor are, these days, all words for the same professions: GIS officer or Surveyor.

    My original post:

    Australia is down to about 4 universities which can provide a Surveying degree and 1 which does spatial science.

    You can no longer do a degree in Cartography in Australia. Since the invention of CAD and GIS packages, this role is defunct. What was formally a cartographer is now a GIS Officer / Spatial Scientist.

    The full 4 year degree required to gain this qualification graduates around 8 to 15 students a year as Graduate Surveyors.

    There is no skill shortage in Surveying technicians, only Registered Land Surveyors, which in QLD also need a cadastral endorsement.

    There is no qualification required to be a surveying technician, and only a TAFE diploma required to be an associate. There is absolutely no skill shortages in these areas what so ever.

    To practice as a Cadastral / Registered Surveyor requires intimate knowledge of state land and planning laws, as well as the Surveyors Act applicable to the state in question. This knowledge is gained via specialist university education for the state in question. It is then assessed when going for registration via state surveying boards. Most surveyors take about 6 to 7 years on average to complete the entire process from start to finish. Hence the shortage.

    This shortage cannot be filled by overseas surveying technicians. In fact the flooding of the small market with overseas surveyors is probably the main problem with the industry as it currently exists. It is making the engineering side of the profession a dog’s breakfast filled with unqualified cowboys and has reduced to perception of the profession to less than a trade. Site surveyors on large engineering projects are mostly perceived as glorified labourers. It’s cut throat in its competitiveness as it is.

    It looked like we were finally about to make some headway with the border closure but seems we will continue a race to the bottom.

    The largest firm, Veris, listed on ASX, hasn’t posted a profit in 5 years or so. Their cash flows are massive but they undercut everyone else at a loss to themselves and try to minimise the loss with armies of immigrant Surveyors which are inadequately trained and equipped.

    Very dissapointing news which can only benifit the multibillion dollar clients of Surveyors at the disadvantage of Australian trained Surveyors and completely removed the carrot to train our own professionals. Fancy a country that can’t make its own Surveyors, it quite literally doesn’t know it’s a*”:ole from its elbow!