17 March 2009

Australian unions want bigger cut to migration intake

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Yesterday, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans announced a 14 per cent cutback to the Australian skilled migration quota, so that the Australian economy could cope better under the current financial conditions.

The Minister said the Australian skilled migration program needs to remain reflexive to the economic conditions and targeted so that Australia is getting the skills it needs while protecting the local workforce from having their jobs taken by overseas workers.

Until the 2009-10 Budget release in June, the annual migration quota has been reduced to 115,000 from 133,500 places, and unions are calling for a further reduction to protect the jobs of local workers.

According to The Age, union leader John Sutton said the demand for temporary workers in the construction, forestry, mining and energy industries was diminishing, making it unnecessary for the government to provide the temporary Australian visa scheme for businesses in those industries.

Already pressure from the unions to take bricklayers, plumbers, welders, carpenters and metal fitters of the Critical Skills List was converted into action from the Government; however, they are now calling for the Government to temporarily turn off the temporary 457 visa scheme.

"The temporary migration program is not adjusting properly, given the size of the downturn, and should be halted," he said.

While the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes, agreed that the 457 visa scheme should be reduced, Business Council of Australia deputy chief executive Melinda Cilento said the scheme works well to reflect economic conditions without interference from the Government.

Senator Evans said in an interview yesterday that his Government's policy is to make overseas workers more expensive so that employers are inclined to employ local workers over holders of a visa for Australia.  He also said most businesses tend to employ local workers over foreign workers and that the 457 visa scheme works well to respond to market conditions itself.

"I think most do that as their first response anyway and the business groups have been telling me that's the advice they provide.  But there is obviously situations now where overseas workers are no longer required and I stress to people, the 457 scheme is a temporary migration program.  If there's not work, people are expected to return to their country of origin."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

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