Business praises increased immigration as the government offers longer pensioner work hours

The top two of the Albanese government's "36 specific initiatives" following the jobs summit are tax adjustments to encourage the elderly to work more hours and an increase in the permanent migration of 35,000 new immigrants.

The two-day summit was concluded by the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, who said that all 36 initiatives, including changes to immigration and workplace relations, may be completed this year. The summit's conclusion tempers the Liberal leader Peter Dutton's criticisms that the government should do more to entice retirees to work, but it will result in a difficult industrial relations bill this year to legislate alternatives for multi-employer bargaining, it was disclosed on Thursday.

When agreeing to host the summit, Albanese told reporters in Canberra that he "couldn't have hoped for the outcomes that have been accomplished over the last two days."

The most recent is a $55 million "time-limited" initiative to offer retirees an additional $4,000 in income tax credits, or approximately $80 per week, on top of the $7,800 they can already earn before their pension pay-outs are reduced.

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For older Australian employees, "we hope it promotes some additional labour involvement... so that individuals can work a bit more if they choose to," Chalmers said.

Unless their income is above the level for two years, pensioners will not be "thrown off" the pension, forced to reapply, or lose their pensioner concession card.

Clare O'Neil, the home affairs minister, made the announcement earlier on Friday. She promised it would allow "thousands more" engineers and nurses to enter the country, alleviating a severe labour crisis.

The Alban administration also disclosed plans to speed up the visa application process and combat the exploitation of migrant workers.

The government will spend $36.1 million to hire 500 more employees in the home affairs division, according to immigration minister Andrew Giles, in order to reduce the 900,000 application backlog.

Business leaders and state governors praised the policies. Dutton acknowledged that "the number needs to be greater," but he doubted that the "real numbers" would exceed the maximum and what effect that would have on the competitive housing market.

Chalmers earlier promised it would not be used as a "substitute for training" or carried out in "isolation" from other policies to house new migrants, describing the new migration cap as a "cautious and sensible lift to permanent migration."

The government will expand the national housing infrastructure facility's mandate in order to release $575 million for investments in social and affordable housing, including through the attraction of private capital and superannuation funds.

Asserting that Labour will "move away from the focus on short-term migrants, toward permanency, citizenship, and country building," O'Neil told the conference that there was nearly "universal" support for increasing immigration levels.

About 34,000 places of the 195,000 cap for the 2022-23 financial year will be in the regions, an increase of 9,000, O’Neil said.

“To our state and territory premiers – we are building in a big lift under the state and territory allocations – from 11,000 last year to 31,000.”

O'Neil promised to permit graduates from abroad programs to "work in Australia for longer."

She added that the Covid initiative to remove limits on temporary workers residing in Australia will be continued until June 2023. While the skills shortage is so severe, "we need it to continue, but we also need it to end," she said.

Businesses applauded the migration cap rise, which Andrew McKellar, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called a "major step forward" and a "really excellent move."

Giles agreed that the pay floor for temporary skilled migration needed to be raised, but he did not propose a new floor.

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Although McKellar agreed that the floor, which has been frozen at $53,000 since 2013, should be lifted, he rejected unions' demand that it be raised to the median full-time pay of $90,000.

Giles stated in 2023 that the government would bring up new legislation to combat the exploitation of migrant workers and to "further work" on employer-sponsored visas.

According to him, the government's initiatives to speed up the visa application process have already reduced the number of people waiting from about one million to 900,000, and the typical wait time for a skilled visa has decreased from 53 days to 42 in July.

He promised that the backlog will be addressed as he announced the additional manpower increase in processing.

"Waiting times will keep getting shorter. We'll deal with this problem while working to put Australia in a position to reach its full potential as a nation united in its diversity.

We do need an increase in migration numbers, but we'll see what the government actually delivers since this might take many months, if not a couple of years in the making, Dutton told reporters on the Gold Coast.

In response to a "major rise in the migration program," he remarked that Australians are "finding it hard to find rented accommodation" and urged the government to explain where foreigners would dwell.

Also read: The programs for skilled and business migration for 2022–23 are now open