By Trevor Chappell
(Australian Associated Press)
Australia’s high cost of living is stopping senior technical staff like software engineers from taking up jobs here, the billionaire co-founder of software developer Atlassian says.
Mike Cannon-Brookes’ Aussie-born technology firm Atlassian is listed in the US with a market capitalisation of more than $US5 billion ($A6.66 billion).
Mr Cannon-Brookes says the most important thing in the tech sector is to have highly-educated people with the right talent.
But attracting people with qualifications in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to Australia is difficult when there are competing big-money tech jobs elsewhere in the world.
“The biggest challenge, fundamentally, is the cost of living in Australia is extremely high,” Mr Cannon-Brookes told the Australian Financial Review Business Summit on Tuesday.
He said Australia’s high cost of housing, transport and education was a significant factor when people from overseas were considering taking a job in Australia or a job elsewhere.
Junior staff out of the US or the UK were not so hard to attract because they were young, single and adventurous.
But senior staff may baulk at the high rents for housing, the high cost of cars, and the high cost of putting several children through school.
“As soon as they begin moving up the chain, it becomes progressively harder for us to get them in,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.
“So, whatever we can do to change that cost of living would make a big difference.”
Offering big salaries was not the answer because there were plenty of high-paying senior jobs in the tech sector.
Mr Cannon-Brookes said that to reduce the cost of living, one had to “unlevel the playing field”.
This might include offering tax breaks to senior technical experts from overseas.
After all, those experts were probably only going to work in Australia for a few years and were unlikely to use things such as the welfare safety net or be heavy users of Medicare.
“These people are paying a high rate of tax for three, four, five years if they go home. They’re not using senior citizens’ services … they’re investing a lot of money in what they leave behind,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.