AREEA’s chief executive Steve Knott has continued to nationally advocate the resource industry’s position and policy priorities on skilled migration in Australia, through a detailed industry presentation Immigration and 457s: Separating Fact and Fiction.
Presented to a small AREEA member forum and reported exclusively in The Australian newspaper, Mr Knott used the opportunity to have the final word on a year marred by ‘misleading and divisive’ trade union campaigns against skilled migrants.
He also reiterated the resource industry’s responsible use of skilled migration to create more economic and employment opportunities for all Australians.
“AREEA has been highly critical of the demonisation of skilled migrants which has proven to be particularly reckless amid the previous government’s ‘Asian Century’ strategy,” Mr Knott said in his presentation this week.
“Employers have always faced a high regulatory bar in accessing skilled migrants and do so as an ‘expensive last resort’. When we do need skilled migrants, they are often vital to safety, maintenance and project delivery.
“Their role is small but essential in delivering projects, productivity and ongoing jobs for Australians. But they do more than just ‘plug the gaps’ and play an important role as conduits into global practice, transferring knowledge and innovation from overseas into the local workforce.”
Moving forward, Mr Knott told forum participants that with some $300bn of resource investment under consideration, and $150bn having been delayed or shelved in the last 12 months, employers need certainty in their ability to access overseas skilled employees when required and appropriate.
“For the sake of our industry, economy but also our societal fabric, I for one want to see skilled migration valued and appreciated by policymakers and commentators for the contribution it has made,” Mr Knott said.
“This contribution ranges from the Snowy Hydro Scheme 60 years ago, to my own personal experience when working on Hydro Electric Commission Tasmania construction sites in the 1980s, and to the multi-billion dollar projects underway across Australia today.”
As reported in the national media, Mr Knott also used the opportunity to call on the new Abbott Government to repeal the former ALP government’s reintroduction of Labour Market Testing (LMT).
“AREEA is concerned that in providing financial, transactional and recruitment information to the government, employers may face the possibility of breaching commercial-in-confidence and even privacy obligations,” he said.
“Moving forward, AREEA will advocate for Labor’s pre-election, last minute, politically driven, ill considered, unnecessary and cumbersome LMT to be removed by the new government to restore objectivity and confidence in the 457 visa program.”
Following Mr Knott’s presentation, the Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison, who is very familiar with AREEA’s work in this area, committed to reviewing Labor’s onerous LMT measures and to challenge claims of systemic rorting as ‘one of our first steps’.