The impending release of the 2014 Skilled Occupation List will bring despair to many newly graduating dentists.
Despite repeated calls from the Australian Dental Association (ADA) to take corrective action, reports indicate that the occupation of dentist remains on the List for 2014, which means that dentists with overseas qualifications can still enter this country and take jobs away from dentists graduating from Australian universities.
"Despite their claim that it consults closely with industry and education providers and undertakes research and workforce studies to provide advice on skills and workforce issues, the Australian Workforce & Productivity Agency (AWPA) has completely ignored everyone that has the expertise and data on the dental workforce. The AWPA's advice about the List to the Minister for Immigration is extremely misinformed," Dr Karin Alexander, President of the Australian Dental Association said.
'Negligence at best, wilful blindness at worst'
"The AWPA has brazenly ignored the detailed findings of the Australian government's own agency, Health Workforce Australia (HWA). HWA's detailed supply and demand study of the dental workforce shows that there is an increasing oversupply of dental professionals that will last until 2025. The bureaucracy's left hand does not know what its right is doing. The AWPA sought advice and data from HWA and others and has chosen to reject the lot. This is a case of gross incompetence or negligence at best. At worst, this is a case of wilful blindness. Either way, local dentist graduates will cop it.
"We have presented the Minister for Immigration, the Assistant Minister for Immigration and the AWPA with incontestable evidence of the dental workforce oversupply that exists in this country. Yet rather than ensure that those dentists who are already in Australia are able to work, we continue to encourage overseas dentists to migrate here to take their place. It doesn't make any sense at all.
International dentists flood local market
"The ADA always supports the right for all governments to use a range of policy levers to address workforce supply issues. The problem here is that the Australian government's own bureaucracy is endorsing a process that allows overseas qualified dentists to flood the market with dentists when many of our own graduates are unable to practise. This is unconscionable," Dr Alexander concluded.
The ADA has repeatedly called on the Australian government to remove dentists from the Skilled Occupation List, place a cap on the number of Commonwealth Supported Places in dental programs and place a moratorium on the introduction of any new dental schools or the expansion of existing ones to try and bring the workforce into balance.
With students in Australian universities paying anywhere between $30,000 and $300,000 to study dentistry, if the Australian government is serious on reducing waste, it must start here and ensure that this investment in the training of Australian dentists is not lost by allowing overseas dentists to access the dental market here carte blanche.