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Migrant intake to tackle skills shortage -

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Migrant intake to tackle skills shortage

Reporter: Michael Rowland

MICHAEL ROWLAND (REPORTER): John Howard is so worried about Australia running out of workers that
he now wants to embark on an international recruitment campaign.

JOHN HOWARD (PRIME MINISTER): The Government right at the present time, in the lead-up to the
decision that it normally takes on the eve of the budget, is looking at the possibility of a
further significant increase in the skilled migrant intake.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: 20,000 additional skilled workers may be allowed into the country next financial
year, taking the total skilled migrant intake to nearly 100,000. The migrants would fill critical
labour shortages gripping key industries such as construction and mining. Opposition Leader Kim
Beazley describes himself as a high immigration man but has his doubts about this idea.

KIM BEAZLEY (OPPOSITION LEADER): This is a concession of failure, massive failure. When you've got
the business organisations pointing out that in the skills trade areas we've now got completion of
apprenticeships in those traditional trades 24 per cent below what they were in '96.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Another Labor leader fears the potential impact of migrants, skilled or otherwise.

BOB CARR (NSW PREMIER): 40 per cent of that national intake will come into Sydney. That puts
enormous pressure - 1,000 people a week - on our infrastructure.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Business groups have long been campaigning for more skilled migrants.

MARIA TARRANT (BUSINESS COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA): We think that's a really important first step and
what we would like to see is increased migration so that we're getting around about 180,000 a year
by the end of the decade.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Australia's peak union body is more sceptical.

GREG COMBET (ACTU SECRETARY): It is a short-term fix. It's a bandaid for a systemic problem, and
it's a systemic problem that's been created by the Howard Government.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: They may differ about the need for skilled migrants but both employers and unions
agree much, much more needs to be done to tackle labour shortages. A key concern is getting to the
hundreds of thousands of unskilled Australians into the work force.

GREG COMBET: Businesses and unions have been telling the Howard Government over the last couple of
years that we face a skills shortage. It's been obvious and the Government has failed to invest
sufficiently in things like the TAFE system, in traditional trades apprenticeships, to meet this
demand for labour.

MARIA TARRANT: The Business Council is seeing it as important to address what's coming through in
terms of young people in education and training, how you free up work practices in workplaces.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Skills shortages were very much a key talking point at a Business Council of
Australia conference in Melbourne today. Corporate leaders agree there's little time to waste in
dealing with the problem.

MARIA TARRANT: What we need to realise is over the next decade we will have shortages in engineers,
in scientists, in accountants, at the other end of the extreme the cooks, in between teachers and
nurses. Every industry is looking at almost being at capacity in terms of the number of people
available to work for them.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: And by then even 20,000 new skilled migrants may be nowhere near enough. Michael
Rowland, Lateline.