Policy Advisory Committee - Activities in 2017

AHK-Update from the Policy Director

  • © © pixelio.de Andreas Hermsdorf

Summary of the Policy Advisory Committee’s work by Chairperson Simone Whetton and Dr Michael Zettinig on behalf of the Policy Advisory Committee members.

Following the set-up of the Chamber’s Policy Advisory Committee in 2016, the calendar year 2017 was characterised by a focus on the detailed developments around the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the changes announced by the Australian government to the visa system, particularly around the 457 visa category.

The committee had the opportunity to consider the details of the Australia-EU FTA process and to raise areas of particular concern for the German-Australian business community during a roundtable discussion with Alison Burrows, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Chief Negotiator for this FTA. Alison is very experienced in negotiating FTAs and provided excellent insights into the process; she took great interest in the areas of concern raised by the committee members on behalf of the German-Australian business community.

With the formal start of the Australia-EU FTA negotiations expected to start in early 2018, the committee will continue its active involvement and plans also to prepare an updated FTA submission to DFAT.

One other key topic for the German-Australian business community in 2017 was the changes that were announced by the Australian Government to the visa system, particularly to the temporary skilled employer-sponsored visa known as the 457 visa. This is a visa category that helps businesses in Australia to fill vacancies with qualified overseas staff when no suitable local applicant is available. Given the often highly technical nature of positions in the German-Australian business community, this visa has been used in the past when no suitable local applicants were available and it also helped to upskill the local workshop with international expertise. The committee discussed this and other visas relevant for the business community and, together with the Board of the Chamber with input from many Chamber members and the PAC members, prepared a submission to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. The submission outlined the importance of highly-skilled staff for the German-Australian business community and the benefits arising from international staff exchanges. Therefore, the recent changes and the upcoming replacement of the 457 visa category in March 2018 are seen critically and as a potential threat to Australia’s international competitiveness. The process of announcing the changes without prior consultation is also of great concern.

With great sadness, we received the news of the death of committee member Scott Moffat, GACIC Board Member and Managing Director at Pilz Australia. His contribution to the discussions of the committee were outstanding; his passion for innovation and his inclusive discussion style will be greatly missed.