Australian startups need more diversity to thrive, not closed borders

In recent weeks, both major political parties have proposed tougher restrictions on Australia’s 457 visa system, which allows businesses to sponsor skilled foreign workers for up to four years.

The timing, so soon after the election of the outspokenly anti-immigrant President-elect Donald Trump in the U.S., has shades of political opportunism. It also comes amid the increasing power of the right wing One Nation party locally, sending ministers stumbling to “put Australia first.”

In November, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton announced that the amount of time a 457 visa holder may remain in Australia after their employment ends would be reduced from 90 days to 60 days.

“This change is about reducing competition from overseas workers for those Australians who are actively looking for work,” he said in a statement.

“Where there is an Australian worker ready, willing and able to perform a role it is the Government’s policy that they have priority.”

The Crossroads Report, an annual review of Australia’s startup ecosystem, made its position clear this Thursday: Australia needs more openness when it comes to skilled IT immigration, not less.

Australian Skilled Immigration

The report argues for the improvement and promotion of the Entrepreneur Visa, which is open to founders with at least A$200,000 in third party funding for their idea, as well as relaxing restrictions on 457 visas for startups.

“Currently the administrative challenges associated with obtaining 457 visas are impeding efforts of young Australian tech companies to recruit skilled IT workers,” the report said.

Given the young age of the Australian tech ecosystem, if we want more people with 10 years of startup expertise, we have to import them.

“We need people with entrepreneurial skills and people with STEM skills, but also people with experience,” Alex Gruszka, head of data and insights at StartupAUS, told Mashable.

As he pointed out, 82 percent of founders among Australia’s top 50 startups had previously started a company.

The group want to see 457 visas made effective for startups, as well as the elimination of some of the barriers to obtaining an Entrepreneur Visa.

“The wait for the Entrepreneur Visa is extremely long,” he suggested. “That’s simply not at all competitive with the international scene.”

The cofounder of software heavyweight Atlassian, Mike Cannon-Brookes, has also been outspoken on the issue, warning that those seeking to use anti-migration sentiment for political ends would end up damaging companies like his own.

Speaking to the Australian, he said Australian tech companies need specific IT skills Australia’s own education pipeline is not yet placed to supply.

“The biggest single thing we lack is senior technical talent with deep expertise in the volumes that we need for the industry to keep growing,” he explained. “Every single startup (in Australia) has very similar problems when they start to scale.”

Read More: mashable

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