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Foreign Skilled Workers Demand Heats Up: Australia Skilled Migration Hunt, Policy Debate Splatter on Media

June 07
20:32 2012

The big debate over bringing in foreign workers appear to have been settled in favour of mining companies as Australian newspapers run job advertisements that will target skilled foreign workers.

The newspaper campaign, which rolls out Friday, supports the Gillard government policy on the issue. The policy allowed miners to bring in foreign workers to fill in the labour shortage in the booming mining sector through the use of enterprise migration agreements (EMA).

The Roy Hill venture of Gina Rinehart, owner of Hancock Prospecting and the world’s richest woman, is the first Australian mining company to tap the EMA, which angered the unions who claim there are many jobless Aussies who should be given first priority in hiring. Ms Rinehart was allowed to bring in 1,700 foreign workers under the EMA.

The ad campaign was launched by the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA). Its full-page ad will appear in The West Australian, the national press and suburban newspapers in the electorate of Special Minister of State Gary Gray who was targeted by the unions because of his strong support for the EMA. The local papers include the Mandurah Coastal Times, Mandurah Mail and Weekend Kwinana Courier.

The ads suggested that racism is one of the reasons why there is some opposition to the entry of foreign labour in Australia.

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“The loud and sometimes race-based opposition to temporary skilled migration is hard to understand…. There is a simple truth underlying the federal government’s decision to increase skilled migration: without it, we won’t be able to deliver the huge projects that will bring wealth and employment to Australia. And then everyone loses: How does that make any sense?,” The Courier quoted part of the ad.

Besides supporting the EMA policy, the ad is seen as a counter media strategy by miners after the unions previous ran newspaper ads that targeted Mr Gray. The ad war is seen as a reprise of the anti-mining ads that helped boot Kevin Rudd as prime minister over the mining tax. This time, the mining industry is supporting a government policy to keep the sector strong, the MCA said.

The MCA stressed that it has an Australians-first policy but added there are not enough local workers with the proper skills to fill the short-term requirements of construction projects in the mining industry. The council vowed to continue training thousands of Australians to help build and run new projects, but emphasised that it needs skilled workers now.

“Support for temporary skilled migration is sound government policy, something recognised by wise and experienced heads across the political spectrum,” the ad said.


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