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Pensioners, migrants win from jobs summit

Relaxed rules so that seniors can work extra hours without losing their pension entitlements was one of 36 concrete outcomes agreed on at the jobs and skills summit.

Under the changes, pensioners will receive a one-off income credit so working seniors can earn an extra $4000 over this financial year without losing their pension.

At the moment, pensioners can earn $7800 a year before their payments are docked.

The policy is expected to cost $55 million.

“It’s a time-limited measure we hope spurs some additional workforce participation among older Australian workers,” Dr Jim Chalmers told reporters after the summit.

With housing shortages a key issue impacting the mobility of the workforce and the ability to boost migration, Dr Chalmers also said the government planned to attract more funding from super funds into housing projects.

“We will make it possible for $575 million in the National Housing Infrastructure Facility to invest in affordable housing by attracting financing from super funds and other sources of private capital,” he said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said a contribution from the Commonwealth government could mitigate the risk of investing in these assets.

Dr Chalmers said he’d had “really encouraging conversations” with super funds about investing in affordable housing by providing a “little bit of extra incentive”.

“When you go right around Australia and they talk about their labour and skill shortages, the next thing they say is that ‘we need to have places for people to live’,” Dr Chalmers said.

The government also committed $3.3 million towards a new pilot program to help people with disabilities find work and advance their careers.

The program will be delivered in partnership with the Business Council of Australia.

Also announced at the summit – attended by more than 140 community, government, union and business leaders – was a higher permanent skilled migration cap, which will be lifted to 195,000 places for this financial year.

The permanent skilled migration cap is currently 160,000 and will be boosted by 35,000 places in 2022/23.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the change could mean thousands more nurses and engineers settling in the country.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the lift was needed but he was uncertain about the government’s ability to deliver its promise.

“We just need to see what they actually deliver because Labor’s great at making grand announcements but quite often in two or three or six months’ time you’ll find they haven’t lived up to what they have announced,” he told reporters.

In an address to the summit, Nationals leader David Littleproud – the only coalition member to attend the event – welcomed the focus on permanent residency rather than temporary visas.

“I want to see the next generation of migrants come to regional Australia, not pass through,” he said.

Mr Littleproud also called on the government to relieve HECS debts of doctors, nurses or other key members if they moved to the regions to work.

Funding to clear visa backlogs and shorten wait times was also announced.

The $36.1 million will go mostly towards more visa processing staff.

The government made some other commitments for immediate action, including allowing university graduates to work in Australia for longer.

The government also committed to $1 billion in joint federal-state funding for fee-free TAFE in 2023 and a boost to the skilled migration cap.

As well, workplace relations laws will be modernised to include making bargaining “accessible for all workers and businesses”.

Mr Albanese said more was achieved over the two days than he hoped.

“It has been truly an exercise in collaboration that has reinforced my government’s approach towards the way that good government should function,” he concluded.

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