(Australian Associated Press)
Telstra chief executive Andy Penn says politicians “need to build skills not walls”, calling for immigration policies that let Australian hire workers who can boost performance and train locals.
Mr Penn told an audience in Melbourne that, with a skills shortage forcing companies including Telstra to hire overseas, he was in favour of policies that prioritised the needs of business and Australian workers over vote-grabbing populism.
Mr Penn said in a keynote CEDA address that, rather than taking jobs from locals as claimed by populist politicians in Australia and elsewhere, a properly targeted immigration policy “is a job creator, not a job taker.”
“Skilled migrants bring ideas, they bring expertise and innovation, and they bring the capacity to train and skill their Australian colleagues,” Mr Penn said on Wednesday.
“Skilled migrants also add to Australia’s wealth.”
Mr Penn said the rise of populist rhetoric in countries including Australia, the US and the UK was unhealthy and even dangerous.
“We need to build skills not walls,” Mr Penn said.
“An ongoing skilled migration policy is essential for Australia and essential for Telstra to attract and recruit the right talent and capabilities we need to transform and compete effectively on a global stage.”
Australia currently accepts about 160,000 migrants each year, despite having a cap of 190,000 backed by an expert picked by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“We support the continuation of policies that include measures which simplify and reduce administrative costs and serve to attract talent,” Mr Penn said.
He said Telstra’s urgent need for software engineers and the like was behind the decision to open a new innovation and capability centre in Bangalore, India, later this year.