'The reputation of Australia has been damaged'

Scott Farquhar/ Supplied.

Atlassian, the country’s largest and most successful software export, has been struggling with attracting and retaining staff in Australia since the federal government changed the 457 visa rules.

Around a quarter of the company’s 1000-strong Australian workforce are on 457 temporary migration visas.

Co-chief executive Scott Farquhar told The Australian the recent changes to both the temporary and permanent visa programs have had a significant impact on his business which is regularly losing high-quality candidates “due to the uncertainty that now looms over their potential future in Australia”.

In July the Turnbull government replaced the 457 visa with a new program of temporary skilled visas with tighter eligibility categories and shorter working period terms, neither of which lead to permanent residency.

Farquhar says the cutback on skilled worker visas not only sends “the wrong signal to the world about being closed for business”, but it’s also damaging Australia’s reputation as a great place to work.

“The uncertainty over the visa situation in Australia will increasingly force people towards the centre of gravity of tech — which is in the US,” Farquhar said. “At Atlassian, we are trying to fight that.”

“In a reputational sense, we want to see Australia as a country where the best and brightest can come here… but now the reputation of Australia has been damaged as a result of the uncertainty around the new policies.”

Farquhar joins a chorus of Australian tech companies and startups to raise their concerns about the implications the visa changes would have on the industry.

In April, Expert360 chief executive Bridget Loudon said that while the immediate impact was uncertain, an unfillable skills shortage may force startups to flee Australia.

“Startups and other businesses may feel forced to consider moving their headquarters to the US or Europe,” she said.

“The talent gap in Australia is a major concern for businesses and this move simply creates more uncertainty for skilled workers who might have considered bringing their talent to Australia.”

The Australian has more here.

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