26 April 2012

Unions warn Australian immigration won’t solve skills shortages

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Australia's largest trades union has warned the federal government that increasing Australian immigration will not solve skills shortages in Queensland and Western Australia where the shortages are most acute.

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Australia's largest trades union claims Australian immigration will not be used to address the ongoing skills shortages.

Treasurer Wayne Swan will deliver the federal budget next month and many analysts expect him to announce changes to Australian immigration policy by allowing an extra 5,000 skilled migrants through the permanent skilled migration programme.

However, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) claims the measure will not address the areas in most need of assistance, particularly the resource states of Queensland and Western Australia where labour gaps are widening.

The mining and construction industries in Australia are currently experiencing unprecedented periods of growth and expansion yet, as production continues to accelerate, many companies are struggling to find the manpower needed to meet demand despite high wage rates.

As the expansion of the economic boom reaches its predicted peak, companies are turning to international workers, employed temporarily on a 457 visa to supplement local workers.

"We have actually got serious job losses happening at the moment," said CFMEU's construction national secretary, David Noonan. "We'd be concerned about more skilled migrants coming in while Australians are going on the dole."

CFMEU is urging the government to introduce compliance measures to ensure Australians are considered for positions before recruiting from overseas.

"We need to be careful the skilled migration scheme is not a scheme that can be abused by unscrupulous employers, who bring people in rather than give jobs to unemployed Australians," said Mr Noonan.

The union's concerns have been echoed by opposing politicians; the Coalition's immigration spokesperson, Scott Morrison, has labelled the 5,000 increase a 'blunt instrument to deal with skills shortages', saying without proper checks, incoming skilled migrants do not address the issue at hand.

"Boosting permanent migration is not the best way to deal with the skills crisis in states like Western Australia and Queensland," said Mr Morrison. "Well over half of skilled migrants end up in Melbourne or Sydney."

"We think it's necessary to use more targeted immigration measures, which are particularly available in the temporary skilled migration area, and we also believe we need to train more Australians.

"I'd like to know where the workers will go, will be there be conditions on this measure?"


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