Talent shortages restrict business – visa problems for Australia’s biggest tech exporter

Key Points
  • Australia’s biggest tech exporter facing critical shortages of skilled workers  
  • Atlassian’s co-founder outlined failings of skilled visas to a Senate Committee
  • This raises questions about the support for business to fill skills shortages

Presenting to an Australian Senate Committee this month about the structure of our future workforce, Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of software company Atlassian, voiced his concerns about sourcing or importing sufficient employee talent within Australia to keep the company headquarters here.

The difficulties faced by Atlassian in securing skilled staff to drive innovation, increase productivity and support growth echo through many Australian industries and businesses of all sizes. As Australia’s biggest tech exporter, Atlassian competes on a global scale for talent and, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald (Mike Cannon-Brookes warns Atlassian may move headquarters from Australia, 13 March 2018), Cannon-Brookes sees current skilled immigration settings as having a direct impact on the perception of Australia as a tech provider.

Cannon-Brookes outlined the double impact on staff availability of the best local talent moving overseas, while our skilled migration programme, including the recent changes with the introduction of the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visas replacing the former 457 visas, has damaged Australia’s international reputation. Offering a strong argument for importing “experienced global talent”, Cannon-Brookes employed the framework of the economic multiplier, emphasising that when Atlassian is able to employ senior staff with global experience, they can then hire “many, many more” less experienced staff around them.

The current TSS visa structure restricting Atlassian is based on a reduced list of roles, introduced in 2017 and now numbering around 435 occupations in total, which visa applicants are categorised under and assessed against. Additionally, for applicants wanting to stay in Australia in an ongoing capacity, most of the applicable visa streams are restricted to applicants under the age of 45 years, meaning that the “highly skilled experienced” applicants Atlassian needs are unlikely to meet the eligibility criteria for one of these visas.
Australia’s skilled visa migration programme should, and often does, play a crucial role in assisting Australian businesses to fill identified skills shortages and improve their business productivity. However, applying for and obtaining Australian visas is a complex process and if our system is not supporting our business leaders and innovators we can expect that it’s even more difficult for businesses to negotiate the system and secure talent.
Post by Najeh Marhaba – Partner in Charge, Hicksons Newcastle, and Registered Migration Agent (#1797 237)

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