Tech giants and industry bodies have broadly welcomed calls from a government-led committee to allow large companies to bypass labour market testing and parachute overseas executives into Australia where necessary.
The recommendation was contained in the migration committee’s report into the country’s skilled migration program earlier this week, which also asked that the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) skills list be replaced.
If implemented, the change would grant multinational companies an exemption from labour market testing to transfer “executive employees” to Australia where necessary for them to “expand their operations in Australia”.
The inquiry heard that a streamlined path for intra-company transfers is necessary to allow businesses to fill specific occupations requiring specialised, proprietary knowledge that may not be available in the local labour market in Australia.
The committee said that, if implemented, the government should consider subjecting the measure – which could be introduced through a new visa category – to “other strict integrity measures”, though has not defined what these may be.
A number of other countries in the Northern Hemisphere have already introduce intra-company transfers in the form of specific visas or permits, including the UK which is currently looking at reforming its scheme.
Digital Industrial Group Inc (DIGI), a peak body representing Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, eBay and Verizon Media, has welcomed the recommendation, with managing director Sunita Bose saying it could lead to greater opportunity in the Australian tech sector.
“For highly specialised roles or where there might be gaps in the ability to hire locally, recommendations like this are important not only in building capability within the offices of multinational companies, but also for the long-term benefits to the wider technology ecosystem in Australia,” she told iTnews.
“Having more global tech companies encouraged to expand in Australia will serve to create a thriving ecosystem where the calibre of talent, the networking, mentorship, business opportunities all increase.”
Bose added that “skilled migration complements the hiring of Australian citizens and residents, and research has shown that the technology sector directly employs over half a million highly skilled workers in Australia”.
Australia’s peak IT industry body, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), was more reserved, saying that Australia should focus on “support[ing] local capabilities and skills to ensure we have economic resiliency and business continuity”.
“The need to consider Australia’s domestic capabilities has been highlighted in the past year with the loss of skilled migrants - both arriving and having departed Australia due to the pandemic,” AIIA CEO Ron Gauci told iTnews.
“The AIIA has been requesting additional funding from Australian governments to support boosting skills in the technology sector for many years.”
But while “Australia’s ICT sector is overly reliant on overseas labour” and there is a need to “nurture and build a strong ICT workforce to be able to protect our economy”, Gauci acknowledged there is an interim need to support the industry.
“Whilst Australia continues to build domestic capability, international expertise onshore provides a key opportunity for learning and growth amongst domestic staff,” he said.
“The sharing of knowledge is critical to developing local talent and creating a pipeline of ready-made leaders in the tech sector.”
“The Australian tech sector is very talented and continues to demonstrate on the global stage their abilities.
“But a strong plan to build Australian ICT skills by governments will help to reduce the reliance on international talent growing the Australian tech sector.”
A spokesperson for IBM Australia said the company would be supportive of the recommendation if adopted.
Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication. Amazon Web Services declined to comment.