12 August 2010

Businesses fear curbs on Australian visas will worsen skills shortage

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The promise to cut Australian immigration numbers by both Australian political parties in the lead up to the August 21 federal election has drawn the ire of the business community.

Australian Visa

Curbs on Australian Visas will affect skills shortages in mining and agriculture, business leaders say.

The opposition lead by Tony Abbott says it would cut the number of migrants by almost half from its current annual rate if it wins this month's election.

Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard has also promised to reduce Australian Visa  numbers to more “sustainable" levels in response to increased anxiety by the Australian public on the pressure of population on public services.

Chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia, James Pearson, said he believes plans to restrict immigrant numbers are short-sighted.

"Australia is a migrant-based society," he says. "We're one of the few parts of the developed world which really is crying out for new, skilled workers.
Mr Pearson said the real danger to Western Australia, and the Australian economy more broadly, is that if jobs that are being created can’t be filled, then some projects will be delayed, some may not even go ahead and all of the knock-on effects that ripple through the economy will therefore be lost.

Industry groups estimate that 500,000 new jobs will be created in Western Australia in the coming decade as the mining boom accelerates. But there are concerns that more than 200,000 positions across a range of sectors in Western Australia will remain vacant unless skilled workers can be sourced from overseas.

Other industries that are reporting a skills deficit include Australian agriculture, with a severe lack of agronomists, vets and farm managers, through to harvesting machinery operators and shearers.

The National Farmers' Federation estimate that Australia will need up to 100,000 additional workers over the next five years with the vast majority of jobs in the skilled or semi-skilled category as agriculture becomes more technologically advanced.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge their Australian Visa application  at the Australian Embassy.   

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