14 September 2012

DIAC sets the record straight on Australia visa agreement

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has issued a statement aimed at shedding light on the Australia visa process which allows large numbers of foreign skilled workers to work on some of the country's biggest mining projects.

Australia visa

DIAC argues the EMA program benefits Australia

The first Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) was granted earlier this year to the world's richest woman Gina Rinehart for her multi-billion dollar Roy Hill project in Western Australia. The EMA allowed Ms Rinehart to employ up to 1,715 foreign workers on an Australia visa.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has since confirmed that more EMAs are in negotiation but did not detail the projects involved or the number of foreign workers.

The EMA has proved controversial with Australian workers' unions claiming Australians should be considered for the work before overseas labour can be sought. However, Australian immigration officials dispute that claim.

In a post titled 'Dispelling the myths on EMAs' on the official DIAC migration blog, the sources of the controversy are addressed.

The post writes that details of potential EMAs aren't disclosed to the wider public due to the commercially sensitive nature of the information in the agreement.

'An EMA is a contract between the Australian government and the project owner,' reads the post. 'A contract like this cannot be fully disclosed because it contains commercially sensitive information. The EMA guidelines require that extensive consultation must occur with all key stakeholders before an EMA can be agreed.

'The department will publish projects which have an active EMA.'

Criticism of the EMA program largely centres on a perceived preference for overseas workers compared to local labour.

'This is untrue. The government's priority is to ensure suitably qualified Australia job seekers have every opportunity to find work in the resources sector.

'However, there is a large body of evidence that points to significant skills shortages in the resources sector over the coming years. This shortfall in suitably skilled workers is compounded by the unprecedented demand for Australian minerals and resources and the high levels of capital expenditure that are flowing into the country.

'The EMA program aims to lock in these large mining projects to ensure their viability. This helps secure Australian jobs and supports future Australian workers entering into the sector through training and apprenticeships, which are an integral part of all EMAs.'

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

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