Hopes Rise That New Migration Strategy Will Help Repairers Find Skilled Workers

The Australian Government has released an outline of its new migration strategy, which will initially focus on reforming the skilled migration system. The changes could bring much needed relief to industries facing long-term labour shortages, including the automotive service and repair sector.

According to the document, Australia must deliver structural reform to the migration system to ensure it is well placed to deal with ageing population, waning productivity growth and a “deeply complex” geostrategic environment. “Migration is not the complete answer to any of these problems, but it is part of the answer to all of them,” the authors said.

While not an exhaustive list of all skilled migration policy changes to be considered, the document proposes:

  • Prioritising people who, it says, are needed to enhance economic prosperity and security
  • Making the process simple and efficient for employers and migrants
  • “Delivering outcomes” for Australians and migrants, post-arrival.

Migrants will also have clearer pathways to permanent residency, circumventing the risk of them being in “permanently temporary” limbo.

The document asserts that Australia must build a new temporary skilled migration system by:

  • Creating proper, tripartite, regulated pathways for desperately needed workers, recognising the long-term labour shortages in essential industries while maintaining the primacy of relationships within the Pacific region
  • Building a mainstream temporary skilled pathway to bring in the core skills needed, using an improved approach to determining which skills are really needed, and doing away with outdated, inflexible occupation lists
  • Changing how Australia selects permanent skilled migrants (reforming ‘the points test’) to focus on factors that best contribute to lifting the country’s productivity, participation, and addressing ageing population challenges, while meeting strategic security imperatives
  • Radically reshaping the global talent and business innovation and investment programmes, and building a new, simple pathway to attract the migrants needed to drive innovation

Additionally, the strategy outline says the skilled migration programme must be efficient for employers and migrants to access by:

  • Simplifying visa categories, rules, and requirements
  • Addressing the most acute aspects of the visa backlog and making the system faster and more efficient through investment in IT, data, and people capabilities
  • Placing small business on a more level playing field by exploring a switch to monthly employer fees and charges rather than a large up-front investment

During May and June 2023, the Australian Government will consult with state and territory governments and key stakeholders – unions, business groups, and civil society – on the strategy outline, with the final migration strategy expected to be released later in 2023.


Acknowledging the importance of fast, simple pathways for specialised, highly skilled workers, the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) welcomed the release of the outline of the migration strategy.

According to the AAAA, the document addresses several longstanding aftermarket industry concerns, including complexity and cost, as the sector wrestles with a shortage of more than 30,000 skilled workers.

“We appreciate the government’s commitment to creating regulated pathways for desperately needed workers, maintaining strong relationships with the Pacific region, and establishing a mainstream temporary skills pathway that brings core skills to Australia,” said Stuart Charity, CEO of the AAAA.

“Although migration is not a magic fix for skills shortages, changes to the migration system will greatly benefit many businesses.

According to Charity, many AAAA members have considered sponsoring overseas workers to fill skilled roles, but a complex process combined with exorbitant fees for visas and accreditation courses – costing some workshops more than $20,000 per worker – are a significant deterrent.

“These costs are something that AAAA believes the federal government should look to lower as part of its migration strategy,” added Charity.

“Workforce restrictions for businesses has knock-on effects on the cost and availability of repairs and maintenance for Australian car owners. We hope that the government builds on this initial outline to ensure businesses have a transparent system that places productivity as the key priority.”