Under the proposals, put forward by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, migration into Australia would be capped at 160,000 migrants per year for the next four years, with the Government offering incentives for people to stay outside the major cities to relieve congestion.
He also announced plans to introduce a new skilled workers visa for 23,000 people per year, which would be included in the 160,000 per annum quota. Under this skilled workers visa, applicants would have to spend three years in selected regions before receiving residency.
Australian Meat Industry Council CEO Patrick Hutchinson said these proposals could affect the domestic red meat sector. “Although we welcome policy change that directs migrant workers to regional areas and those that increase skilled visa quotas, a migration cap is disastrous for the red meat manufacturing industry,” he said.
“In the case of the red meat processing businesses, the Government’s decision will reduce the pool of available overseas workers in low-skilled and unskilled labour positions, impacting the viability of these establishments. Our research has shown that constrained visa quotas simply do not meet basic labour requirements, especially in rural and regional areas.
Hutchinson said staffing had been a long-term problem for the Australian meat sector, with the system “not fit for purpose”.
“We have been crying out for Government assistance to counter the immense difficulty the red meat manufacturing industry has in recruiting and retaining unskilled and semi-skilled workers. The current visas are not fit for the purpose of creating long-term career opportunities and do not allow for processors to keep people on who started on unskilled visas but have become skilled due to the investment of time and money by their employers.”
He added that a lack of staff was hindering productivity.
"Currently, the red meat supply chain is also facing a drought of its own — a drought in local workers who are willing to be trained up in our industry. We are working with Government to tackle this problem, but until such time that it is fixed, the government should not reduce access to foreign workers. Most of our members are operating at only 80% production capacity because many local workers won’t work and foreign workers are restricted from working.
“Cutting migration has no discernible correlation to helping to save jobs and boost unemployment for local jobseekers. For many rural and regional areas, the complete opposite is true as labour deficits equate to a reduction in a business’ viability in the long run and future employment opportunities.”