30 May 2012

Brit on 457 visa spinning for Australian PM

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's communications director is a British career politician currently in Australia on a 457 visa.

Australia visa

Ms Gillard's communications department is run by a 457 visa holder.

John McTernan, who previously worked in the British Labour party for three decades including positions as special adviser to Tony Blair and director of political operations at 10 Downing St returned to Australia in September 2011 on a 457 visa to head Ms Gillard's communications department.

His term as communications director, or 'spin-doctor', is Mr McTernan’s second position in Australia after assisting the incumbent Labor Party's successful election in 2007.

The news that a foreign citizen is working so high up in the Australian government is particularly pertinent at the minute as the argument over the use of foreign workers rages on. The booming Australian economy is dependent on the ability of mining companies to fill skills shortages.

Workers' unions within the country claim Australians can fill the demand while mining companies argue that most Australians aren't willing to travel to the remote locations where many of the opportunities are and therefore foreign workers are needed to meet demand.

The government granted mining magnate Gina Rinehart the permission to hire 1,700 foreign workers last week.

The 1,700 workers would be employed on a different category of Australia visa than Mr McTernan, as he filled a skills requirement whereas many foreign workers brought in for Ms Rinehart's project will be unskilled positions such as drivers and scaffolders.

While the decision to grant Ms Rinehart, the world's richest woman, permission to employ more workers has attracted significant controversy, Mr McTernan's position has also not been without incident.

Posting on micro blogging site Twitter, Mr McTernan has been criticised for writing 'what a surprise. Abuse from a moron' and 'you're happy to call me a revolting thug but so self-righteous when I call you a buffoon. Diddums.'

Mr McTernan assured detractors that his tweets concerned football and was merely harmless banter.

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

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