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Press conference on skilled migration


Event: Press Conference at Australian Parliament House
Date: 4 June 2024, 11:15am AEST
Speakers: Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: Skilled Migration.

Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: Good morning, Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia. Today we’re here to talk about skilled migration. It is critically important that skilled migration for construction is prioritised by this federal government. We know that we need 500,000 extra people into our sector over the next three years, if we’re going to build those 1.2 million homes, and the infrastructure around it. Skilled migration will be part of the solution. So we are incredibly perplexed as to why most of the trades that we need to build 1.2 million homes are not on the definite list for skilled migration. It does not make any sense. So we are asking this government to say, when you’re finalising this list, you must include the trades, because we know the shortages that are occurring at the moment, are significantly constraining our capacity to build and it is exceptionally increasing the cost of building a home. Forty per cent increase in costs of building a home since 2019, is predominantly due to labor shortages. Simply, we need to focus our attention on skilled migration, ensuring that we also have more people joining apprenticeships and more women into the sector. That is what we’re concentrating our efforts on. And that’s what we ask the government to do. Thank you.

Journalist: How shocked were you to see yoga, ahead of carpentry or plumbers?

Denita: Well, I appreciate that wellness instructors are an important fabric in the work-life balance. It does not make any sense. I think the word I have used is flummoxed, that we have wellness instructors on the definite list, but not tradies. So we need to ensure that we get our priorities right. We have to house all Australians. We cannot build homes with wellness instructors, we need tradies, and they must be on the definite list for skilled migration.

Journalist: With tradies coming overseas to move here, is there any concern about skill gaps, potentially in compliance standards at all and their skill level compared to here in Australia, and those who are trained here?

Denita: Absolutely. In terms of, whenever we bring in skilled migrants, we need to ensure that their skills are at the same level as those that we expect in Australia. We must ensure that the maintenance of the right skill levels are held. That is why there is a skilled assessment scheme and that is why we are seeing so many people that are already in the country as migrants are finding that process too expensive and too cumbersome. That’s why we applauded the decision by Minister O’Connor to put some money towards supporting those migrants, to get their skills assessment done, and if necessary, do the gap training. So skill quality is critical. But we are at the moment competing with the likes of the UK and Canada who have express visa provisions for appropriately skilled people, they help them in terms of the gaps, and so we are well behind when it comes to our competition in attracting people to our country.

Journalist: Considering the government’s looking a lot at university positions in the future, do you think that they’re overlooking the massive gap, and tafe and apprenticeships to fill the gaps locally?

Denita: We’ve had a problem in this country that is decades in the making. Since the 1980s we have focused on tertiary education at the expense of vocational education and training. People going through a trade are treated as second class citizens in this country. Enough is enough. We know that we need a huge number of trades people. We know that they have great, rewarding jobs. We know that they are in an industry that is the third highest paying in the country, and that there are opportunities to both be employed or be your own boss. So we’re saying let’s focus on the trades. We know that there are career opportunities, and we need to bolster the benefits of our sector and the trades as much as we do for the university education.

Journalist: Is this internal Labor Party politics at play when maybe the unions are pressuring Ministers not to bring in trades?

Denita: I know that the CFMEU are anti-immigration, I would hope that they have not had undue influence in the decision making of the government. We share their view at the CFMEU that we need to we need to focus on Australians and getting more Australians into our great industry. But we know that just focusing on Australians is not enough. We will not have enough people. Skilled migration is the solution and the unions need to recognize that. I would have thought it was a good opportunity for them to increase membership, so I’m, I’m bewildered by the reason why they are so anti-migration, when we have actually built this country through migrants. Twenty five per cent of our current workforce are migrants, we need to embrace that and celebrate that.

Journalist: This is a draft list, when will the final determination be put in place, and are you hoping that the Minister will change or listen?

Denita: We understand that Jobs and Skills Australia as a standalone agency is currently considering all the submissions, including ours, to determine the final list. We hope that is sooner rather than later so it gives the industry some level of certainty that the government is taking a common sense approach to this issue. We want to work with government to meet that 1.2 million homes, but we will be curtailed if we don’t get enough workers. It’s as simple as that. So we implore Jobs and Skills Australia and the immigration department to see some sense and get this list in the way that it needs to be.

Media contact:
Dee Zegarac

National Director, Media & Public Affairs
0400 493 071

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