NSW Gov unimpressed with Jobs and Skills summit

NSW Deputy Premier and Leader of the NSW Nationals, Paul Toole, has expressed disappointment at the Federal Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit, claiming the event failed to deliver a plan to fix the ag worker shortage crisis currently facing regional NSW.

“My hope for this Jobs and Skills Summit was to see real solutions to fix the ag worker shortage crisis, but all we saw was Labor turn a two-day talkfest into an ongoing roundtable,” Mr Toole said.

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“With summer harvest coming up across NSW, farmers need to begin sourcing workers now and the only thing Labor has been able to sauce is the party pies at the Jobs and Skills Summit.

“Ag deserves better than a working group and a path to white paper, it needs action now.”

Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders said while the summit had added 9,000 more regional migrant places across the country, it is not enough to make a significant dent in the 172,000 ag worker shortfall.

“The NSW Government has already undertaken a range of measures to address the situation including AgSkilled 2.0 and HelpHarvest NSW and we stand ready to work with the Commonwealth to assist further,” Mr Saunders said.

“While the Jobs and Skills Summit may have had the best intentions going in, it has failed to make a significant dent on the 172,000 ag worker shortfall across Australia.

“The Federal Government needs to reinstate the Ag Workers Visa at the earliest possible opportunity to give our farmers a real solution to sourcing workers.”

Meanwhile, key housing affordability advocates have welcomed Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s commitment to expand the National Housing Infrastructure Facility to social and affordable housing.

Mr Albanese made the commitment in his closing address to the Jobs and Skills Summit.

The policy makes it possible for $575 million dollars in the national housing infrastructure facility to invest in affordable housing by attracting financing from super funds and other sources of private capital.

The Prime Minister’s commitment is an important recognition of the critical role social and affordable housing must play if Australia is to address core economic challenges such as productivity and labour mobility, according to the Community Housing Industry Association, National Shelter, Homelessness Australia and Everybody’s Home.

Wendy Hayhurst, CEO of Community Housing Industry Association, said social and affordable housing was critical infrastructure.

“Our existing housing policies are a handbrake on economic growth because they fail to provide the rental housing needed for our workforce.

“This initiative is a great start at attracting super funds into social and affordable housing and we are committed to working with the Government to build upon it.”

Emma Greenhalgh, CEO of National Shelter, said giving people on low and modest incomes greater housing choice was critically important.

“Regional Australia is screaming out for workers, yet low vacancy rates and skyrocketing rents prevent people moving to the bush or the coast to work in industries such as aged care and health.

“This announcement is a good start in recognising the economic centrality of providing affordable homes.”

“Homeless and housing stress are massive economic impediments,” said Jenny Smith, Chair of Homelessness Australia.

“It is refreshing and reassuring to see the Prime Minister acknowledge and tackle this with a concrete measure to expand the supply of affordable homes.”

Kate Colvin, national spokesperson for Everybody’s Home, said the PM’s announcement was especially welcome in the context of other policy measures.

“Expanding skilled migration, training and industry bargaining are important, but without homes to live in, we will continue to see rising rents push real wages backwards.

“This is important progress that the Government can build upon with a plan to rapidly deliver the affordable rentals needed across Australia.”

A slew of recent reports have demonstrated the dire economic impact of Australia’s housing crisis.

Impact Economics report last week showed how the affordable housing shortage gripping regional Australia is blowing a hole in local economies worth hundreds of millions of dollars, as employers struggle to attract staff due to low vacancy rates and skyrocketing rent.

In Apri, Professor Andi Nygaard of Swinburne University revealed the foregone benefits of underinvestment in social and affordable housing.

This found a cost to the national economy in areas such as health, justice, and education of $676.5 million annually, rising to $1.286 billion by 2036.

And the Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot found only five of the 45,000 properties available for rent on 19 March 2022 were affordable for a single person on Jobseeker.

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