Australia

Skilled migration and visa backlog in focus at Anthony Albanese’s first National Cabinet meeting

The visa backlog must be addressed to allow across the country, according to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Mr Albanese hosted his first National Cabinet meeting on Friday, where state and territory leaders raised the issue of fast-tracking targeted migration.
The migration program is still suffering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic placing immense pressure on the Department of Home Affairs
Following the meeting, Mr Albanese said National Cabinet had recognised the need to do more to help businesses struggling to bring in workers to fill skill shortages.
“We need to work on clearing the backlog there from people who have visas that have been granted,” he told reporters.
“Short-term migration will need to be a part of the solution.”
Mr Albanese also announced the Commonwealth had agreed to extend a 50-50 health funding deal with states and territories until December.

The decision an extension from a previous September deadline agreed to by the Morrison government.

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Premiers and chief ministers had made the issue of health a central focus ahead of Friday’s National Cabinet meeting in Canberra.
The leaders have been calling for reform in the health sector to combat pressures on the system, including an ongoing 50-50 split in funding from the Commonwealth.
Health funding was evenly split between the states and the federal government under the then prime minister Kevin Rudd, but his successor Tony Abbott cut the federal share to 40 per cent.

Malcolm Turnbull increased the contribution to 45 per cent.

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Ahead of the meeting, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said state and territory leaders were united in their push for equal funding.
“Health has to be front and centre at today’s discussion,” she said on Friday.

“National cabinet worked well in terms of dealing with the pandemic, but now is a great opportunity to discuss a lot of issues and get things done for this country.”

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South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said health would remain the most important topic of discussion during the talks.
“As a nation at the moment, we are seeing a hospital system that is under extraordinary pressure, unprecedented strain,” he said.
“What we need to do is work together as a Commonwealth to make sure we are confronting these issues.”

The prime minister hosted dinner for the state and territory leaders at the Lodge on Thursday night before the talks got underway on Friday.

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