“National migration’s structure is based on big cities and is not looking at the unique nature of regions,” he said. “The focus is on controlling the flow of people to big, gateway cities.”
Instead, Mr Glazbrook would like to see a shift away from a national quota to one of demand-driven migration within industries or regions to fit the right people with the right job.
“If there is a genuine demand, we can’t find people locally and there is a net economic benefit, we need to be able to get the right skillset,” he said.
As part of a submission to the federal Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation inquiry, which meets in SA early next month, Mr Glazbrook has proposed a pilot program for SA.
He says this pilot may address some of the issues in filling jobs in regional industries and allow businesses to grow by easing some of the often difficult hurdles faced by employers in hiring migrant workers.
Some of these include the requirement of 457 visas to pay wages on parity of those in the city as well as the requirement that migrants can only be “skilled”, while the jobs that need filling, such as those in agriculture, may be only considered “semi-skilled" by government standards but still require specialised knowledge.
Despite SA having above average unemployment, Mr Glazbook said that many regional businesses still had trouble finding candidates for unfilled vacancies with a seeming reluctance for people living in capital cities to relocate to regional areas.
In many cases, the lack of employment candidates for a range of regional jobs is leading to what he calls an “unhealthy reliance” on backpacker labour, most of whom will only stay in a job for three to six months, requiring ongoing training costs.
He pointed to the meat processing industry, which had its own individual agreement with the government, as did the NT, outside the traditional scheme, as signs this could work.
“Individual employers can get their own agreement but it can cost (as much as) $30,000, which can be prohibitive for smaller businesses,” he said. “I think we need better options in place.
“Without staff and labour, it is very hard to be productive.”