The Australian Dental Association has come out fighting over the impending release of the 2014 Skilled Occupation List (List), which the organisation says will “bring despair to many newly graduating dentists”. ADA President Dr Karin Alexander has gone even further, telling a national newspaper “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.’’
The source of the ADA’s frustration is reports indicating that the occupation of dentist remains on the List for 2014. In a press release, the ADA said this means “that dentists with overseas qualifications can still enter this country and take jobs away from dentists graduating from Australian universities”.
Dr Alexander also said that, “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
“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.”
Dr Alexander said the association has 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,” she said.
“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 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 programmes 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, the Association says the government must 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.