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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 285

Employment: Accounting

(Question No. 631)

Mr Kelvin Thomson asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment, in writing, on 14 November 2014:

(1) Will the Minister review the 2012-13 Australian Government Review of labour market demand, which found that there was no shortage of graduate accountants and that graduate employment outcomes for accounting bachelor degrees have fallen over the past five years. (2) Is the Minister aware that in 2012, 7,200 domestic students completed a bachelor or higher degree in accounting, with the Department of Employment declaring that ' more than adequate supply of accountants existed in Australia'. (3) Is the Minister aware (a) of reports that overall employment of accountants increased by just 1.3 per cent over the five years to May 2014, which was well below the 'all occupations' average of 7.4 per cent, and (b) that advertised vacancies for accountancy positions have also fallen since 2008. (4) Is the Minister aware of the recent media report by Edmund Tadros 'Accounting bodies do about-face on jobs for foreign students' (Australian Financial Review, 29 October 2014), claiming that the Australian Government says it will review the Skilled Occupations List early next year, and that based on the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency's recommendation, a reduced ceiling of approximately 5,000 places or 3 per cent of the domestic workforce, has been set for accountants in 2014-15. (5) Is it a fact that the Department of Employment has recommended that accountants be removed from the Skilled Occupations List, having concluded there is a surplus of accountants and 'deteriorating outcomes for graduates…relatively low pay rates for bachelor graduates and weak employment outcomes for masters graduates'; if so, and in light of the evidence from the academic research, media reporting and professional views, will the Minister consider removing accountants from the Skilled Occupations List. (6) In respect of a media report by Edmund Tadros and Agnes King 'Accounting Bodies do about-face on jobs for foreign students' (Australian Financial Review, 12 February 2014), is he aware (a) that in the past five years, 40,000 migrants have entered the country through accounting skilled stream, which is significantly higher than the numbers entering with other priority areas, (b) of data provided in this report that Graduate Careers Australia shows that 80 per cent of domestic accounting graduates were working full time four months after finishing their courses in 2012, compared with 93 per cent in 2001, (c) that the University of New South Wales (UNSW) had an almost record enrolment in first year accounting in 2014 with over 1,700 currently enrolled, and (d) that the UNSW's record for accounting enrolments was 1,800 in 2010. (7) Will the Minister acknowledge the suggestions in the Deakin University's Centre for Research in Educational Futures and Innovation's report Australian international graduates and the transition to employment (September 2014) and media report in part (6), that overseas accounting students are being lured to study accounting in Australia on the misleading impression that it is easy to find work experience, work opportunities and permanent residency in Australia. (8) Is the Minister aware of the findings in Deakin University's report in part (7), which showed that international accounting students were a major source of income for Australian Universities, making up a record 79 per cent of the 17,600 enrolled postgraduate students in 2013, and 55 per cent of the more than 24,500 enrolled undergraduate students.

Mr Pyne: The Minister for Employment has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) No. The Review which the Honourable Member refers is out of date. The latest review of this labour market was undertaken in May 2014 and is published on the Department's website.

(2) The 2012 report includes this information. It is noted that in 2012, the Hon. Bill Shorten MP was the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.

(3) ABS Labour Force Survey data show that employment of accountants rose by 13.7 per cent over the 5 years to May 2014, well above the all occupations average of 7.3 per cent. The Department's Internet Vacancy Index shows the level of advertised vacancies for accountants has fallen over the past five years.

(4) Portfolio responsibility for the Skilled Occupation List rests with the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

(5) The Department's submission is publicly available on the former Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency's website Portfolio responsibility for the Skilled Occupation List rests with the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

(6). The Department of Employment assesses the labour market for many skilled occupations and monitors commentary and information from a wide range of organisations and researchers.

(7) and (8). The Government is aware of information and research from a range of bodies, including Deakin University. While the Honourable Member may be under the misapprehension from the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Governments that it is appropriate for media speculation or stakeholders such as union bosses to drive government policy, it is not. This Government will carefully consider all research and act in the national interest, not sectional interests.