‘We can’t wait’:NSW,Victoria demand urgent action on worker shortages

NSW and Victoria will work with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to urgently address the skilled worker shortage plaguing the states,with education,healthcare and construction among the worst-hit sectors.

Premier Dominic Perrottet on Thursday said both states could not afford to delay addressing the worker drought,with delays of up to 18 months for accredited overseas workers to obtain a visa.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet on Thursday.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet on Thursday.Dean Sewell

“I was speaking with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews last night on this exact issue ... we will be working very closely together with the prime minister to address that,and it needs to be addressed as soon as possible. We can’t wait.”

Perrottet said he had been told by the NSW Department of Education secretary that overseas workers who had been targeted to fill teacher shortages were being held back by lengthy delays in visa approvals.

“They have accredited so many people around the world,but the advice I’m receiving is it will take 18 months for their visa applications to be processed by Home Affairs. That needs to be addressed,and it needs to be addressed quickly,” he said.

“We’re in a very different place today than we were two years ago because we didn’t have the shortages that we are seeing in many industries across our state and across our country ... whether that’s in construction,whether it’s in teaching,whether it’s in nursing.”

Perrottet said he had already had a constructive discussion with the prime minister,adding that the Victorian premier was “completely on the same page”.

Industry groups have previously called for permanent skilled migration levels to be raised significantly for at least the next two years. The Business Council in Aprilrecommended permanent migration be lifted to 220,000 places in 2022-23,with up to 70 per cent of places – about 154,000 workers – reserved for the skilled stream.

Recent figures published by the Department of Home Affairs show 18,660 primary and secondary temporary skilled resident visas have been granted in NSW since July last year to March 31. In Victoria,the figure was 11,770,while nationally 43,500 temporary skilled work visas were granted.

The top three citizenship countries granted visas were India (28.7 per cent),Britain (11.7 per cent) and the Philippines (7.9 per cent).

A skilled worker shortage is plaguing the construction industry.

A skilled worker shortage is plaguing the construction industry.Simon Schluter

In NSW,the number of primary visa applications issued to health and social assistance workers in NSW was 950 and in Victoria,810. In education and training the figures were 170 and 140,respectively.

The figures are contained in the latestTemporary Resident (Skilled) Report published by Home Affairs.

Perrottet on Thursday said a backlog in visa applications after two years of border closures were causing added stress across multiple sectors.

“I’ve already raised with the prime minister the issue in relation to attracting skilled labour into our state and into our country. This is not an issue that’s unique to NSW.”

A federal Department of Health spokesman said COVID had impacted the arrival of international doctors,but that overall doctor numbers have not declined significantly.

“The Australian population increased 1.3 per cent between 2019 and 2020 (1.5 per cent annually since 2013). In comparison,the number of medical registrants increased 2.4 per cent and the number of employed medical practitioners increased 3.5 per cent.”

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Lucy Cormack is a state political reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.

Lucy Carroll is education editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. She was previously a health reporter.

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