CANBERRA, AAP – Big business wants the level of skilled migration temporarily ramped up to catch up on the lost workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic to overcome acute worker shortages.

The Business Council of Australia, in its submission to the 2022/23 budget, wants the annual permanent skilled migration cap raised to 220,000 in the next two financial years, before reverting to 190,000 in 2024/25.

It also wants the pre-election budget on March 29 to focus on skilling up the workforce.

This includes a new ambitious national skills agreement to better target training to the needs of learners and their employers, and an extension in the Boosting Apprentice Commencement wage subsidy for a further 12 months at a stepped down rate.

“We need to throw everything at addressing the structural issues threatening to stall momentum in the recovery such acute worker shortages and record low business investment, while laying the foundations for long-term and stronger economic growth,” BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott says.

“The country has moved beyond waiting for COVID to reach its end point. We can no longer sit back and wait for a return to normal.”

She said the answer to speeding up the pace of recovery is not further big spending from government.

“It’s about ensuring business can take the baton and drive faster and sustained private sector led growth.”

The BCA also wants to encourage more women back into the workforce and help them to advance after having children through a shared carer paid parental leave bonus that supports sharing of parental responsibilities.

Turning to tax, the BCA is calling for support for states that want to progress much-needed tax reform, such as phasing out stamp duty by providing them with a clear guarantee of no disadvantage in the allocation of GST revenues.

It wants the turnover threshold for the 25 per cent company tax rate raised from $50 million to either $250 million, $500 million or $1 billion.

It also wants, when fiscal conditions permit, the tax rate lowered to 25 per cent for all companies from 30 per cent currently.

At the same time, the BCA is seeking a 20 per cent investment allowance for all companies to provide for more sustained improvements in investment.

It also wants a positive signal sent to foreign investors by introducing a fast-track approvals lane for regular and trusted clients of the Foreign Investment Review Board.