08 May 2012

Australian billionaires go head to head over skilled migration

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Two of Australia's richest people, Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart, have clashed over the issue of using the 457 visa to import overseas workers as opposed to recruiting local workers.

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Two of Australia's richest people have clashed over the use of foreign workers in the mining and construction industries.

Mr Forrest, who is the non-executive chairman of Fortescue Metals Group and is Australia's richest man with a net worth of AU$6.9 billion (£4.3 billion), has spoken of his disappointment that aboriginal Australians are missing out on work opportunities in favour of international workers entering the country on a 457 visa.

"I would say to people who look to 457 [visas] first, recognise that Australia has changed and you must change with it and look first to your indigenous brothers and sisters to fill those jobs," said Mr Forrest.

While Mr Forrest did not mention Ms Rinehart by name, his comments come after Ms Rinehart, who is head of Hancock Prospecting and is both Australia and Asia's richest woman with a net worth of AU$10.3 billion (£6.5 billion), wrote last week that she preferred using overseas workers in some circumstances.

Ms Rinehart wrote that her new mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia required 8,000 construction workers to become operational yet, while overseas workers on an Australia visa would be used to build the mine, once it became operational, local skills would be used to operate the mine.

Ms Rinehart has previously offered to pay for the training of a local workforce while the mine is built by foreign workers.

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