Skilled migration changes to hold Australians back, employer group warns

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Western Australia mining
A 100-tonne tipper truck is loaded at Atlas Iron's Wodgina mine, about 100 km (62 miles) south of Port Headland in Western Australia June 23, 2010. Reuters/Tim Wimborne

The mining industry in Australia has thrown support behind plans to replace the 457 visa program with a temporary worker immigration scheme. However, employer group AMMA has expressed concerns that resource jobs will be at risk over the skilled migration changes.

AMMA chief executive Steve Knott has claimed that the changes would see the loss of specialists roles not trained for the nation. Although changes to skilled migration were painted as a saviour for Aussie jobs, they are likely to result to the opposite. Knott said the changes would hold Australians back.

“The reality is that some specific technologies crucial to projects have not been used in Australia before or for long enough for Australians to have developed the skills and experience to do the job,” he said, according to Australian Mining. It was like saying a specialist surgeon could not be brought into the country to operate because he is not Australian and that there must be an Australian who can get the work done, according to Knott.

The mining and business community said the effects of the changes will be minimal. The 457 Visa program has been a popular method for recruitment of skills required for the mining industry in Australia. The changes are slated to come into effect from next month.

But Knott argued that it stops Australian’s ability to get access to the experience they need to further their careers, halts the development of industry and inevitably holds Australia back as a nation. Over the past five years, applications for 457 visas in Australia’s resources industry have dropped substantially. Based on figures from the Department of Immigration, it fell from 6,630 in 2011-12 to 230 in 2016-17.

In other news, a report by Deloitte Access Economics found the Great Barrier Reef supported 64,000 full time jobs. The report commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation measured the World Heritage listed area’s economic, social and iconic value.

The reef employs more people compared to companies like Telstra, National Australia Bank and Qantas. The mining industry creates 230,000 jobs.

The latest findings come amid a campaign by environmental groups against Adani’s new mega coal mine in Queensland. The project, they said, would cause threats to the reef. Greenpeace Climate and Energy campaigns director Nikola Casule said strong action on climate change would be the only thing that would save the reef, news.com.au reports.

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