‘Bring in unskilled foreign workers’ urges Barnett

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‘Bring in unskilled foreign workers’ urges Barnett

Mining companies should be able to recruit foreign unskilled workers to get big resources projects under way, according to WA premier Colin Barnett.

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Mining companies should be able to recruit foreign unskilled workers to get big resources projects under way, according to WA Premier Colin Barnett.

Speaking in Singapore, Barnett said he wanted an overhaul of the immigration system to allow unskilled guest workers, because it was likely they would be needed to keep the resources boom going.

Mining magnate Gina Rinehart has already called for unskilled Asian guest workers to be allowed to work on Australian mines, and Chinese resource sector construction companies have long wanted to bring in their own labour.

Beneficial
 
Barnett said guest work programs had already been beneficial on mining projects.

‘They have been good for host countries and they allow a lot of poorer people and poorer nations to derive substantial income,’ he said.

‘I think that in the Australian case, unlike in the Gulf region, it is entirely appropriate that they receive Australian wages and Australian conditions.’

‘I would not support very low pay rates, as happens in some parts of the world.’

Serious labour shortages
 
Barnett said Western Australia was facing serious labour shortages, which were getting worse.

‘Take the Gorgon project ― they have got 3000 or 4000 working there now,’ he said.

‘They have been able to do that but lay on top of that Wheatstone, BHP’s outer harbour, Gina Rinehart’s project and a few others and I think there will be, at that stage, a shortage of both skilled and relatively unskilled workers.’

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state secretary Steve McCartney said the proposal ignored the WA youth unemployment crisis.

Official figures released yesterday reveal 27% youth unemployment in the Kwinana area, based on the number of registered jobseekers aged 15 to 19 years seeking full-time jobs.

WA youths need jobs
 
‘Instead of running around collecting frequent flyer points, why can’t the Premier supply incentives for these unskilled jobs at the school exit level in WA,’ McCartney said.

‘These lowest level jobs open up opportunities for kids to upskill.’

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said domestic options to fill the vacancies had not been exhausted.

‘We should employ West Australians first,’ he said.
 
‘There are many unemployed or underemployed locals who need jobs before we go down this route,’ he said.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy director Damian Callachor questioned how useful it would be to bring in unskilled labour, considering the vacancies were mostly in skilled jobs such as engineering, metallurgy, geology and skilled trades.
 
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