20 August 2012

Fresh Australia visa agreement set to bring in 2000 foreign workers

A fresh Australia visa agreement between the government and Cape Australia is in negotiation which, if passed, will allow 2,062 guest workers to be employed in Western Australia in the biggest deal of its kind to date.

Australia immigration

Foreign labour could be crucial to continuing Australia's economic success.

The deal, requested by labour specialist Cape Australia, would eclipse Australia's richest person Gina Rinehart's deal which was confirmed last month and would allow over two thousand workers to enter the country on an Australia visa to work as scaffolders, sheet-metal workers, painters and cryogenic laggers on some of the largest mining and construction projects in the country.

"The number of overseas workers being requested is much greater than for any previous labour agreement submission the [Department of Immigration] has received," said Peter Speldewinde, assistant secretary for skilled migration policy at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Studies have consistently agreed that foreign labour is essential to ensuring the continued progress of the country's ongoing mining boom which has seen the Australian economy thrive while most others in the world have suffered.

Labour unions have criticised the agreements, known as Enterprise Migration Agreements or EMAs, as prioritising cheaper foreign labour over the domestic workforce. However, many studies have cited the domestic labour force's reluctance to relocate from the country's east coast as a major contributor to the need for foreign labour.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen refused to discuss the likelihood of the agreement being approved.

"Just because a company has made an application for a labour agreement, does not mean it will be successful," said the spokesperson, "our first priority is and always will be jobs for Australians".

While many other labour agreements have been agreed in the past, the first EMA was granted to Ms Rinehart in May which allowed the mining magnate, who is on track to become the world's richest person, to bring in over 1,700 workers for her multi-billion dollar Roy Hill project.

Mr Bowen said earlier this month as many as 50 projects eligible for an EMA were in the pipeline although whether they could eclipse Cape Australia's is unknown.

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

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