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Australian business calls to address worker shortage

Australian Industry Group calls to address worker
Photo: Business calls to address worker shortage
Australian Industry Group has urged the Morrison government to open international borders to migrant workers and students more quickly than planned.

A major employer group has urged Scott Morrison to pull the trigger on loosening international borders to migrant workers and students.

Australia will resume international travel for citizens, permanent residents and their families who will be able to fly in and out of Sydney without quarantine from November 1.

But businesses continue to sound the alarm on worker shortages, with the coronavirus pandemic pushing the migration rate to its lowest in more than a century.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the Delta variant and slow start to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout pushed labour issues aside.
"They are already coming back with a vengeance," he said on Thursday.

"Unless they are addressed quickly and effectively they will hold back the recovery that is now underway."

Mr Willox said the Morrison government should remove the brakes it applied to NSW's international travel plan.

"By retaining visa entry caps on categories other than returning Australians, the federal government is putting an unnecessary barrier in place," he said.

He said all states should welcome back working visa holders, students, tourists and all other visitors as soon as possible.

"The costs of not doing so will fall squarely on their own citizens and businesses," Mr Willox said.

The prime minister said he did not want to see a repeat of other countries that reopened too fast.

"We've said on students, in particular, and on skilled migration, we'll see that happening in New South Wales next month. We'll start seeing that in late November, early December," he told the Seven Network.

"On international visitors, well, we'll see how Australians coming back first goes."

Ai Group also wants the annual migration target restored to 190,000 from the cap of 160,000 to which it was lowered before the pandemic.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has indicated intake could be lifted next year to address skill gaps.

Mr Morrison expected Victoria to follow a similar path to NSW in its plans to reopen Melbourne - where lockdown will end on Friday - to international travel.

Victoria and Tasmania have become the latest states to achieve 70 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage for people aged 16 and above.

Victoria recorded its second highest daily case increase on Thursday with 2232 new infections, while another 12 people died taking the state's toll past 1000.

NSW registered 372 new cases and one death.

Almost 86 per cent of over-16s have received a first dose nationally, while the full vaccination coverage rate is nudging 71 per cent.

But WA continues to trail the nation with 57.6 per cent double dose, slightly behind Queensland at 58.7.

Mr Morrison cast doubt on suggestions the WA border could stay shut to states with the virus until Easter.

"I don't believe it will take that long, frankly. I just don't," the prime minister said.

But he warned hospitals around the world were being filled with unvaccinated coronavirus patients.

"The virus finds the people who are unvaccinated, and that's what can put stress and strain on your hospital system," Mr Morrison said.

"That's why you've got to get those vaccination rates up to 80 per cent."

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