AmCham CEO on how to solve today's most vexing business challenge

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September 2021

We have been living with shortages since COVID appeared 18 months ago. First, it was ventilators and PPE. Then it was hand sanitiser and toilet paper. More recently, lumber. Then new vehicles. Shipping containers are now scarce. And the world’s most traded commodity, semiconductors, is currently in short supply.


But the most critical and widespread challenge facing businesses right now is the inability to hire the qualified workers they need. When businesses do not have enough employees, they must refuse potential jobs, reduce their hours, scale down operations, and at worst, permanently close. I hear every day from our member organisations —of every size and industry—that they’re facing unprecedented challenges trying to find workers to fill job openings. In industries as diverse as healthcare and hospitality, agriculture and computer software, manufacturing and construction, most businesses are finding it difficult to hire workers now; the vast majority say that it’s significantly harder than it was just five years ago.


The shortage could be partly due to reduced immigration due to pandemic-induced border closures. It might be because of the decline in outsourcing to foreign destinations during COVID. Maybe some income-substitution schemes have encouraged the less motivated to stay home. Or perhaps a significant percentage of the population is feeling uneasy about working in an office, store or restaurant due to health concerns.


Whatever the reason, businesses are having trouble finding and retaining the talent they need. This is part of the reason we started the for member companies to promote open positions to a qualified and interested audience that is accustomed to working with international companies. Staffing concerns was also one of the reasons we launched the pledge, encouraging leaders to explore the benefits of hiring people who have recently separated from the military. Our Executive Search, Recruitment, and HR companies are also tackling the issue by encouraging employers to expand the pool of possible applicants through inclusion and diversity.


Although COVID has had a distinct impact on the labour market, we know that the worker shortage isn’t new. Even before the pandemic hit, there were more open jobs than unemployed individuals. Keeping the Australian economy growing will require these jobs to be filled. To fill the jobs, we need to remove barriers to entering the workforce, upskill individuals for the open positions, and re-open our borders with a sensible immigration policy. If business and government work together to grow the workforce, Australia will remain a vibrant, prosperous nation and play a leading role in the world economy for years to come.


Yours sincerely,

April Palmerlee, Chief Executive Officer

American Chamber of Commerce in Australia


I’m delighted to welcome these new members and here are links to their websites:

Member Spotlight

Western Australia


Peter Bennett | CEO and Managing Director

Clough Limited



Raynuha Sinnathamby | Managing Director

Springfield City Group

Member Spotlight

Bob Easton

Chairman and Senior Managing Director | Accenture Australia and New Zealand


Bob Easton has been Chairman of Accenture in Australia and New Zealand since 2016. Bob is one of Accenture’s most experienced client executives. He has worked with some of the world’s largest businesses and influential leaders over a two-decade career at Accenture, spanning many industries and many countries. Prior to joining Accenture, Bob spent twenty years with the Army.



Favourite movie?

Dead Poets Society, it awakens my existential side. It is a film full of hope and idealism, based on “Carpe Diem” or “seize the day”, it's one that inspires us to pursue opportunities that come our way and to live a life of passion and purpose. John Keating (played by Robin Williams) is my hero because he teaches the students to look at things differently, and to express themselves free from expectations.


Who do you most admire?

My grandmother Mary Potter who provided me unconditional love, compassion, learning and sense of justice and spirituality. As to world leaders - Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela, whom collectively exhibited superpowers of love, compassion, forgiveness, persuasion, determination, courage, persistence, and strength – character traits and powers I continually aspire to and ones the world needs right now.


Personal motto that helps you power through obstacles?

Always do the right thing even when it is the tough thing to do - it might cost you in the short term, but you will always win in the long term.


Best advice you ever received?

I have received much sage advice in my life including – (1) “The true test of integrity is what you do when no one is looking”; (2) “Blame is the last refuge of a beaten scoundrel”; and (3) “A fool with a tool is still a fool”.


What is one hobby you would love to get into?

Cooking and wine appreciation – I have a wonderful wine collection and limited knowledge. I have little artistic or musical talent but can express my creative side through cooking and get very creative after a few glasses of great vino– wine and food what a great combination for a hobby!


What book are you reading now?

Deep Work by Carl Newport and Think Again by Adam Grant both will inspire and challenge on critical topics, they are transformative in their impact. And once a year I pull up Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning it always awakens and inspires me to rise above the challenges I am facing in daily life and find meaning in purpose in how I live.

Company Spotlight

ESG, corporate purpose, cyber, top list of CEO priorities



Corporate purpose is increasingly used as the guiding framework for key business decisions, according to KPMG's 2021 Global CEO Outlook.


Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues and corporate purpose have risen up the priority list among Australian and global CEOs, KPMG’s annual survey of international business leaders reveals.


The KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook, a study of 1,300 CEOs across 12 countries, finds that corporate purpose is increasingly used as the guiding framework for key business decisions in the COVID-19 era, particularly in Australia. 94 percent of CEOs in this country and 86 percent of their global counterparts said that following through with corporate purpose commitments will shape their capital allocation, while almost all Australian leaders surveyed (98 percent) said purpose drove financial performance.


Corporate purpose was also a key part of Australian businesses’ appeal to their workforces – 86 percent of CEOs here said that purpose was a key part of their ‘employee value proposition’. A similar number said purpose was central to building their brand reputation and customer relationships.



The Australian version of the report will be out tomorrow, 21st of September, you can subscribe to to stay up to date with what matters to you.

SME Grants Update


While roadmaps for our release into a COVID-normal way of life are being announced by governments, many businesses are still facing into the unknown of when to open, how to open and even if they can open again. The governments, state and federal, have a number of assistance packages available to help organisations, and businesses should remember that assistance extends beyond just emergency funding. There are many other grants and incentives available aimed at growing priority sectors, regions, and job creation and skill development.


Check out a recent video where he and Kristina Kipper, Partner in Charge of Mid-Market at KPMG, discuss broader available grants and how to apply. You can find a full list of available assistance programs for COVID affected businesses and if you’d like to stay informed of further updates preeminent to small and medium enterprises you can subscribe to KPMG’s Building Better Business newsletter

Network News

2021 Global Charitable Initiative

Norton Rose Fulbright


As part of Norton Rose Fulbright’s Global Charitable Initiative, its Australian offices will join the firm’s US colleagues as part of their planned sponsored ‘Run against Racism’ in Houston on 19 September 2021 to fight racism and champion social justice. The Melbourne office has chosen as its charity, as part of its support of many worthwhile Australian charities.


You can support this wonderful initiative and support Aboriginal Housing Victoria wherever you are by visiting the .

WA Governor Kim Beazley and The Hon Ian Campbell of Brookfield at an inspection of the new Kids' Bridge connecting Kings Park to the Perth Children’s Hospital

Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation


The Kids’ Bridge, which has been made possible by a $6.3 million funding commitment from the Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation, has been built over Winthrop Avenue to connect the outdoor area between Perth Children’s Hospital and the multi-story carpark on the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre to Kings Park bushland.


Chairman of the Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation, Hon Ian Campbell said, “The Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation is delighted to fund what we believe is a wonderful legacy to WA’s sick children and their families. The Kids’ Bridge will be an outstanding addition to the world class facility that is the Perth Children’s Hospital. We applaud the WA Government for so enthusiastically supporting this milestone project.”


Why it is vital to know about your employee engagement



The pandemic has resulted in some significant changes in the workplace both in terms of employee expectations and an employer’s ability to meet those expectations.


As a result, companies need a mechanism to understand what their employees are thinking and what is necessary to retain existing employees and attract new employees.


Voted Number One City Hotel in Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific by the Readers of Travel and Leisure Magazine’s Annual World’s Best Awards

The Langham Melbourne


Travel and Leisure has over 35 million readers across all of its platforms and is an authoritative voice in the travel industry and is a trusted resource for travellers around the globe.


"We have received this sought-after award in previous years, most recently in 2018 and 2016, but as everyone can appreciate, this recognition feels extra special after the challenges of the last 18 months,” says The Langham, Melbourne’s Managing Director Jeffrey van Vorsselen.


Australasian Lawyer's ‘Top Boutique Firms’ for 2021

William Roberts Lawyers


William Roberts Lawyers has been named as one of Australia's Top Boutique Firms by Australasian Lawyer, and one of only five firms recognised for commercial litigation/dispute resolution.


This award demonstrates the continuing strength of William Roberts' position as a fast-growing, boutique firm in Australia. Robert Ishak, Chairman and Principal of William Roberts Lawyers, said "We are delighted to be recognised by Australasian Lawyer. It reinforces what our clients tell us about our strengths, and how much they like our boutique proposition of commercially-led, risk focused advice."


Security in Retirement Webinar

Lanteri Partners Group


Lanteri Partners Group specialises in providing complete and tailored financial services; and in this webinar Managing Director Michael Lanteri focuses on “Security in Retirement”, what it means and how to achieve it.


Watch it


United Way


Introducing UNITED We Sing, a chance to find your best and brightest singing talent to compete in a virtual lunchtime concert whilst raising money for children’s literacy.


United Way recommend companies hold ‘auditions’ as a fun employee engagement opportunity in November. This will be followed by a cheeky, competitive virtual concert on 2 December.


Vale Brian Stockwell

Founder, Stockwell International


AmCham Member Company Stockwell International has sadly lost its original founder, Brian Stockwell. In his 50th year of business, at age 78, Brian Stockwell passed with his family by his side.


Stockwell International has been a valued member of the Chamber since 2008.


We extend our condolences to Brian’s friends and family.

Member Spotlight

AmCham Jobs Board


As a member benefit, AmCham members can now advertise vacancies on the AmCham .


To advertise please email the following information to :


Job title, location, link to the job advertisement (your preferred employment agency website or your company website) and the close date for applications.

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