9.1 Australia’s skilled migration policy is designed to target migrants with skills for which there is a shortage in the Australian labour market. The skilled migration program is selective and discriminates between applicants on the basis of a range of criteria, including age, to determine which applicants are likely to make the greatest economic contribution. While such an approach does not necessarily sit easily with the position under Australian law—that discrimination on the basis of age is unlawful—for a number of reasons, the ALRC does not propose reforms in this area.

9.2 The focus of the Terms of Reference for this Inquiry is on Commonwealth legislation and related legal frameworks that impose limitations or barriers that could discourage mature age persons from participating in the workforce or other productive work. The failure by an applicant to obtain a skilled visa is not primarily a limitation or barrier to participation in the workforce, but rather is a barrier to entering or remaining in Australia for the purposes of work.

9.3 The ALRC is informed by stakeholder submissions emphasising that: there are policy reasons for retaining age as a criterion; there are a range of skilled visa options for potential migrants, only some of which contain age restrictions, and points tests and exemptions operate to the benefit of highly skilled applicants regardless of age; and the Australian Government’s priority should be on developing an Australian skilled labour supply.