Subjects: Migration program, regional program and DAMAs
LEON BYNER: But in the meantime, this is about skilled migration, because the state and federal governments have come up with a deal, where we're going to bring in more super-skilled migrants. People who've got really high skill sets and we're sending people out there - you could call them work evangelists, if you like - to the four corners of the earth to chase people, very high-end qualified workers. I caught up a few minutes ago with the Federal Minister.
Minister, thanks for joining us today.
DAVID COLEMAN: Good morning, Leon. Good to be with you.
LEON BYNER: We understand that you guys are going global to search for some of the highest qualified people in high tech that you can get, which I think is more than admirable. But I'll tell you, Minister Coleman, my concern is that these jobs that are going to emerge in a high tech industry like space, for example, at the moment, we do not have in our TAFEs courses that are even able to be used; they're not recognized as being suitable for those kinds of professional study, which I think is a problem if we're trying to make sure that our own workers are duly capable and skilled for the right jobs.
DAVID COLEMAN: Well look, Leon, I think that the key point is that the first priority of course is always to get Australians into jobs. That is fundamental to everything we do and the skilled immigration system exists to supplement the gaps that exist. But the vast majority of jobs of course are filled by locals, that's how it should be and that's how it always will be. But where there are situations where Australian companies just can't get workers, that's where we do need the skilled immigration system to assist to fill those gaps so that those businesses can continue to develop and grow because if they can't get workers then obviously, they can't run their businesses.
LEON BYNER: Sure.
DAVID COLEMAN: But you're absolutely right, that getting Australians into jobs is of course always our number one priority.
LEON BYNER: David, can you, for the record, just tell South Australians which of the jobs descriptions and which are the disciplines are we finding it hard to fill? Just give us an idea.
DAVID COLEMAN: Yeah, sure. Well look, we've done two agreements recently with the South Australian Government about the areas that are the hardest to fill. Now, these are called designated area migration agreements. So for Adelaide city, for instance, it's things like the technology and innovation sector, around science and space and so on, as you mentioned before. For regional South Australia, it's agribusiness, it's horticulture, tourism and also some other forestry related areas. So what we do is we go through very carefully and we say where is there a genuine skill gap? How can we use the migration system to supplement those gaps? And how can we use that to help those local companies grow? Because they're Australian companies after all that we're trying to assist.
LEON BYNER: Yeah.
DAVID COLEMAN: And in South Australia, I've found that it's been, you know, quite loud and clear from the state government and from other bodies in South Australia that there is an issue that with gaps in employment; there is an issue with lower population growth. And using the immigration system to help grow the economy and to help fill those jobs makes sense, and we're doing all that in the context of across the nation, a lower overall immigration intake by focusing it more precisely on the regional areas where it's needed most.
LEON BYNER: There's one issue though, Minister, that I think a lot of people point out and that is that you can bring in people from other countries and we welcome them with open arms, particularly if they're filling positions which we just cannot fill. But ultimately, many of them don't stay; they end up going to the eastern states. How are we going to address that?
DAVID COLEMAN: Yeah, so this year, so starting in November, we have two new visas with 23,000 places a year. And what they require is if someone wants permanent residency in Australia, they have to live and work in regional Australia for at least three years. So if a migrant's coming, permanent residency is obviously at the top of the list in terms of what they're seeking. And we say: you've got to commit to regional Australia for three years or you won't get permanent residency. Now, if someone settles in regional Australia for three years and has those employment links and family links and social links, obviously the vast majority of those people will continue to stay. So these are new visas and it's about getting people to the regions in the first place and then ensuring that they actually stay. And we're very focused on that.
LEON BYNER: Is it your view that it's more the skills for which people who apply do not have or there is a disinclination by some Australians to do those jobs which we need filled?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well look, I think that the main issue is that there are certain areas where there are persistent problems in attracting enough workers, and it can be because of geographical reasons; it can be for a whole range of different reasons. So for instance, in agriculture, there are often issues with seasonal workers where it is difficult to get enough Australians for the fruit picking season and so on.
And so something we did last year is, for working holiday makers, for backpackers, if they commit to regional Australia they can stay for up to three years, whereas if they only stay in the cities, they can only stay for one. And we're seeing some really good results from that with more backpackers committing to regional Australia. Now, it varies from industry and industry and from location to location. But the bottom line is where we genuinely can't fill those roles with Australians, we look at sensible ways of using the immigration system to fill the gaps.
LEON BYNER: So if you're a business and you can't find workers and let's say you're in regional South Australia, what do you do to get hooked into this network of people that you can get from overseas on special visas?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well you can sign up to these new Designated Area Migration Agreements for regional South Australia or for the city, if you're in one of those particular regions that I mentioned. And they will give you greater flexibility in finding workers, if you can't find them locally. Of course, you've got to demonstrate as a business that you can't find them locally, and that's what we call labour market testing because we want to ensure that Australians are always given the first opportunity. But signing up to those Designated Area Migration Agreements for South Australia is absolutely one way of going about it.
LEON BYNER: Well that's David Coleman, the Federal Minister.