Queensland Senator Andrew Bartlett says yesterday’s low jobless rate and the related labour market shortages in many areas points to the need for further increases in our migration intake.
"Even with sharp increases in recent years in the number of permanent migrants, temporary skilled workers and people on working holiday visas, employers in many areas are finding it harder and harder to find staff, even for some semi-skilled and unskilled jobs," Senator Bartlett said.
"This is a serious problem at a time of upward pressure on inflation. Further increasing the intake of both permanent and temporary migrants is an immediate way for some of the pressure to be reduced.
"The time has also come for the government to reconsider its refusal to allow in workers from Pacific Island countries. The government can’t expect some of the gaps in our labour market to keep being plugged by backpackers and international students doing part-time work.
"Higher immigration intakes must always be linked with high quality settlement support and assistance, but it is an obvious component to a solution, and one which can be implemented relatively quickly.
"Whilst the focus needs to remain on repairing the damage from the Howard era of serious underinvestment in education and training, this can only go so far in filling labour market gaps, particularly in the short-term.
"It will also get more and more difficult to continue to increase overall labour market participation rates.
"Migrant workers tend to be more vulnerable to exploitation and poor workplace conditions, so attention must be paid to preventing this from occurring and properly deterring offenders. But this is a reason for better safeguards, not for preventing an increase in migrant intake at a time when our country will benefit even more than usual from their economic and social contribution," Senator Bartlett concluded.