16 October 2006

Australian companies to look overseas to fill labour gaps

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Australia's resources sector says it will be difficult to find an extra 70,000 workers over the next decade, estimated to meet its demand for labour.

A new report by a nationwide skills shortage working group shows that Western Australia will struggle the most, with the minerals industry there demanding an extra 42,000 jobs.

Reg Howard-Smith from WA's Chamber of Minerals and Energy says mining companies may have to look overseas.

"I think one of the things that we will have to do is continually look at immigration," he said.

"Immigration's not going to be the sole solution by any means, it's across the board and as I say, working with the people that are here.

"But immigration is going to be an important element, I think, if we are to meet these targets."

Meanwhile Australia's coal industry has been told it needs to properly coordinate its infrastructure needs if it i to reap the benefit of future exports.

A report released by the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARE) warns against interstate rivalry over new port and rail facilities.

ABARE expects coal exports to rise to 435 million tonnes within 20 years, but says it is critical that new mines and infrastructure developments do come on stream.

Don Gunasekera from ABARE's minerals branch says despite moves to energy production from sources such as LNG, coal will remain a mainstay of Australian exports.

"Given that coal is an important source of energy and there is an abundance of coal in Australia, plus other key countries such as Indonesia, and China, I think that our assessment is that coal is going to be a pretty important energy source," he said.

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