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Mooted immigration reforms are a ‘mega win’ for the PR industry, says Thrive PR’s Leilani Abels

Thrive PR’s Leilani Abels has welcomed immigration reforms committed to by the federal government in the 2023 budget, which she believes will help to see a “coming of age in the public relations industry in Australia, now and into the future”.

The sector has been calling for immigration reform for some time, as border closures put an even greater strain on an already dwindling PR talent market, Abels said.

Mid last year, the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) launched the The Migration Task Force, with the financial support of 17 agencies and a recruitment firm, with Thrive part of the cohort.

The task force made a comprehensive submission to the government’s National Skills Commission to recognise PR as a long-term skill requirement – an effort that has been rewarded with the Albanese government’s commitment to an introduce evidence-based approach to identifying labour market needs, rather than a rigid occupations list.

In new reforms first announced by the Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neill last month, the Commonwealth has committed to creating a pathway to permanent residency for all temporary skilled workers by the end of 2023.

These changes were again committed to in last week’s budget, which stated: “The government aims to ensure the migration system delivers the skilled migrants needed to address persistent skills shortages by allocating around 70 per cent of places in the 2023-24 Permanent Migration Program to the Skill stream.”

In an interview with Mumbrella, Abels said: “The PR industry in Australia is overly reliant on global talent, in particular immigration from the UK.”

She noted that a pathway to permanent residency has not previously existed for temporary skill shortage visa holders in metro cities, as PR sat on the Short Term Skills list.

“This is a mega win for the industry, ensuring permanent residency for those in Australia seeking a future here,” she continued.

While Abels described immigration reform as “a minefield”, being that it is “detailed and complex”, she pointed to several other promising commitments in the budget she hopes will significantly impact the PR industry.

One of these is a new three-tiered temporary skilled visa framework that will create a permanent residency pathway for workers with skills identified as “in demand”, who are earning above a base salary of $70,000, replacing occupation lists with evidence-based assessment of skills shortages.

The PR industry can also hope to see a reduction in costs associated with visas, with the government promising to simplify the current process and allow employers to opt-in to pay visa fees in monthly installments, rather than upfront.

“This levels the playing field for smaller and mid-level agency operators, who will be able to take advantage of spreading out these costs and participating in an easier immigration system,” explained Abels, giving the caveat that there is a chance visa costs may rise.

In addition, Abels welcomed the news there would be a citizenship pathway for Kiwis in Australia for those who have been living in Australia for more than four years, with the major change being they will no longer have to first apply for and be granted permanent residency.

Gareth Beddoes, senior account director at Thrive, has recently been given the opportunity to apply for permanent residency with the support of the agency, as a result of the reforms.

Thrive's Gareth Beddoes.

More than six years after moving to Australia from the UK, and building a life with his partner, he said he could not fathom the fact “Australia was going to be comfortable with just kicking us out”.

The reforms would be a “huge positive” for the PR and creative industries as a whole, he added.

“Post Covid, there was a lot of need to get people back over here and boost immigration, but I think they initially turned a bit of a blind eye to the people who were already here.

“So I’m grateful to see that they’re now tackling it from a two-pronged approach.”

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