Yesterday the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs issued a media release proclaiming the success of the Global Talent Scheme, which has now been rebranded as the Global Talent Employer Sponsored (GTES) program, and that it will remain a permanent fixture of the Subclass 482 – Temporary Skill Shortage (482/TSS) visa program.
The GTES is a unique type of labour agreement to attract highly-skilled niche occupations that cannot be filled locally and cannot be accessed under other standard 482/TSS visa programs. There are two streams: the Established Business stream for accredited business sponsors and the Start-up stream for innovative start-ups in the tech industry or STEM fields. Applications under the Start-up stream must be endorsed by an independent advisory panel.
Just what metrices has been used to measure success is unsure. Of the 18 businesses listed as approved sponsors under the GTES program, only five come under the Start-up stream, with the rest predominantly public companies and multinationals. A breakdown of the occupations and salaries of the approved nominations may shed light on how successful the program really is, especially after a Freedom of Information request revealed only eight Established Business GTES visas were approved since the pilot program began on 1 July 2018 to 31 January 2019.
What we have seen with the current government, and which began in their previous term, is recognising the disparity between Australia’s regions (major cities and regional areas) and industries, and adopting a flexible approaching to address labour market shortfalls that the standard business sponsor program is ill-equipped to cater for. There are many examples of this within the 482/TSS visa program aside from the GTES program.
Revising industry labour agreements
Industry labour agreements are templated labour agreements for specific industries. They have fixed terms and conditions such as occupations available, minimum English, salary and skill requirements. Current industry labour agreements include:
Minister of Religion
Restaurant (fine dining) industry
The latest addition is the advertising industry labour agreement. They have also amended these at times including adding religious assistants to the Minister of Religion labour agreement and abolishing the fast food labour agreement.
Encouraging company specific labour agreements
Company specific labour agreements are negotiated directly between the Australian business and the Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs). They are not as constrained as industry labour agreements, however, it is Home Affairs’ practice to ensure certain minimum standards including salary, English and that the occupations available are skilled. A recent example was encouraging reputable aged care providers to consider requesting a company specific labour agreement due to a recognised skill shortage.
Focussing heavily on Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA)
Last but certainly not least, the biggest change has been the use of DAMAs for specific regional areas. There are now six confirmed DAMAs with one on the way:
The Goldfields, Western Australia
Great South Coast, Victoria
Adelaide Technology and Innovation, South Australia
Regional Workforce Agreement, South Australia
Orana, New South Wales
Far North Queensland (proposed)
While there is also Project agreements for the construction phase of major resource and infrastructure projects, currently there are none listed on the labour agreement register.
One may ask why does all this not come under the standard business sponsor program by just adding the necessary occupations? There are several justifications that come to mind:
It confines certain occupations and pathways to permanent visas to specific regions and programs, which was a key election promise and balances the issues of employer demands, labour shortages and overpopulation in major cities;
It provides legal flexibility. The standard business sponsor program is far more rigid in terms of regulations and requirements that must be met whereas labour agreements are not; and
It avoids or minimises the potential for unscrupulous employers abusing the program.
Whether the GTES program can be considered a success or not, you have to award the government of the day an “A” for effort.