19 September 2012

Government rejects Australia visa scrap proposal

A workers' union backed proposal to end Enterprise Migration Agreements in the wake of a perceived slowdown in the resources industry has been rejected by the Australian government.

Australia visa

Enterprise Migration Agreements allow mining and construction projects to bring in foreign workers.

Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMA) allow mining and construction projects to bring in large number of foreign workers on an Australia visa for specified periods of time. EMAs have proved unpopular with Australian unions who contend Australians should be prioritised.

The government's consistent insistence that EMAs have inbuilt safeguards to ensure domestic labour is sought first has done little to quell complaints and since commodity prices have peaked, the Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Dave Oliver called for the EMA program to be scrapped.

"With some large resource projects being put on hold, there is no case for the mining industry to be crying about labour shortages and seeking to bring in foreign workers," said Mr Oliver.

However, the governing Labor Party rejected calls to abandon the EMA program, once again reiterating the safeguards in place to protect and prioritise Australian workers:

"A lot of work went in to making sure that Australians get the opportunity for those jobs but that there is appropriate provisioning for certainty for these very, very large project to be able to proceed in the knowledge that they can get the workers necessary if they're not able to source the labour in Australia," said Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

"We'll continue to ensure - particularly in this environment where some resources projects have very publicly decided not to proceed - that we give every support necessary to ensure that they have the capacity to show their financiers that they are able to source workers in what continues to be a tight labour market in many instances."

Mr Bowen's comments were echoed by Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, who said EMAs were needed as Australians were reluctant to take the available positions. However, the minister stressed EMAs would be used to augment current and future workforces.

"You can't say we can't have EMAs if Australians aren't prepared to chase the available jobs," said Mr Ferguson.

"So you can't have your cake and eat it too.

"[EMAs] will complement and support our primary objective of employing and training Australians, not undermine these objectives as some people would have you believe."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.

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