Mining magnate Gina Rinehart intends to bring in semi-skilled migrants to work in her mines. She doesn’t want Australian workers because our wages are too high so she’s had a brilliant idea - bring in desperate people from other nations willing and overjoyed at the opportunity to work for half the Australian wage. She’s trying to convince anyone who will listen that it’s got nothing to do with profit, she’s not being unpatriotic, she is simply suffering from an acute labour shortage.
Her new Roy Hill Iron Ore project is currently negotiating with the Government on Australia's first Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA). It’s all very hush hush but her plan is to bring in around 1,500 semi skilled migrants such as scaffolders, riggers, bulldozer drivers etc. There are thousands of young unemployed people able to fit these job descriptions in other states who would jump on a plane in a heartbeat if only given the opportunity.
But surprise surprise, it’s already been going on and the Government supports EMAs. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says they are important to keep big projects moving. "We need EMAs to cut red tape for very large resources projects which will have a very strong demand for labour," he said. "The biggest risk for many of these projects proceeding is simply to assure people they will have the labour for the job."
Ms Rinehart wants us to believe that she’s a humanitarian at heart and has even written a poem about it.
Very nice sentiments but what about us Gina?
Needless to say the union isn’t buying it. The CMFEU's national secretary Dave Noonan said "Gina Rinehart's proposition is that she wants to extend a hand of care and raise up the poorer people in the developing world. Some people might believe that but I don't," he said. A large number of workers brought in on 457 visas to work at the Sino Iron project near Karratha have been underpaid and are working for half the Australian rate. “The Immigration Department has received numerous complaints about this and have been derelict in their duty about doing anything about it.”
And here’s the bottom line - there are well over 80,000 workers in Australia already on 457 Visas and migration expert Dr Bob Birrell says he expects at least half will stay on as permanent migrants. "All of this is shrouded in secrecy, there are thousands of domestic workers being precluded from gaining access to those jobs," he said.
He worries about the reluctance to train Australian workers. He says there has been no growth in the employment of the construction workforce over the last two years and there’s been a downturn in employment in the eastern states. “There are now tens of thousands of domestic workers who would like to get access to these jobs," he said.
So now we know.