The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA (CCI) has today welcomed the Liberal Party’s commitment to supporting the training of Western Australia’s workforce of the future by voting against the State Government’s proposed Payroll Tax Exemption changes.

CCI recently released a paper outlining the detrimental impact that the Government’s policy shift – removing the Payroll Tax Exemption for all existing employees and restricting it to new employees earning less than $100,000 – will have on WA’s already declining trainee enrolments and employers’ ability to upskill and retrain their workers to stay at the cutting edge.

CCI Chief Economist Rick Newnham said this is flawed policy that leaves businesses to do the heavy lifting on upskilling and reskilling the WA workforce while the Government walks away without a plan.

“If the Government was really concerned about the already declining state of training in WA they wouldn’t be making policy on the run and leaving businesses with no detail about what their proposed Grants Scheme will look like,” Mr Newnham said.

The Government has raised concerns about large numbers of employees being put on traineeships so that business can access the Payroll Tax Exemption.

“Every single traineeship that has received an exemption from payroll tax has been approved by the Government. The Government has also reviewed and approved the appropriateness of training for every single trainee by considering their role, industry and proposed training objectives among other factors,” Mr Newnham said.

“Additional measures were put in place by the Apprenticeship Office in 2015, including capping the number of existing worker traineeships by business, which have demonstrably slowed the enrolments of trainees in WA.

“The Government is attempting to overhaul a system without a proper plan when a minor tweak could solve the problem.

“Our training data shows that more than two-thirds of businesses with trainees in WA are small to medium sized enterprises.

“If the Government is serious about diversifying the WA economy then its training policy shouldn’t be designed to maximise tax revenue – it should be to train WA workers. Industry can’t afford for a policy vacuum to be created until July 2019 while the Government takes a vacation to consider their options.

“This will hit workers in regional WA and older employees particularly hard. Studies show that the jobs of older workers are most at risk of losing their jobs to automation and AI if they are not supported by constant upskilling.

“WA workers with 20th century skills can no longer compete in this digital world, and neither can the businesses in which they work. Forty per cent of jobs in Australia are at risk of being automated within a couple of decades, which means constant retraining is required as automation and AI become the norm.

“CCI Members have told us that the Payroll Tax Exemption forms a critical part of their adaptation to the end of the mining construction boom, and without it more jobs would have been lost. If removed, they will be forced to reduce the number of trainees they can take on or stop training altogether.

“CCI is calling on the Upper House to block the Government’s Payroll Tax Exemption changes to ensure businesses can continue to upskill their workforce instead of losing jobs to AI and automation.”