Labor in row on foreign workers

The draft report has already caused ructions.BATTLE lines are being drawn over a caucus committee report that urges a tougher attitude to bringing in foreign workers for resource projects.
Nanjing Night Net

The committee, chaired by Senator Doug Cameron, calls for a ”fundamental reassessment” of what skills are needed and available for the resources sector, given the recent downturn in employment opportunities for Australians in the sector.

”Discussions should take place with the trade union movement in order to develop an agreed formula for access to Enterprise Migration Agreements, 457 visas [to bring in foreign workers] and the operation of regional migration agreements,” the draft says.

The committee was set up after ALP and union concern over the migration deal between the government and Gina Rinehart for workers for the Roy Hill project.

The draft report has already caused ructions. The committee’s deputy chairman, Andrew Leigh, an economist, has resigned from his post because he disagrees with the interventionist recommendations. The Australian Financial Review yesterday reported Labor frontbenchers were claiming that rebel backbenchers were pressuring Prime Minister Julia Gillard to dump enterprise migration agreements and were using the issue to destabilise her leadership.

Senator Cameron, a known Rudd supporter, angrily denied the destabilisation claim, saying it was ”outrageous” that some were viewing the committee’s work through a leadership prism. He said mining companies must have a ”social licence” from the community. At present the economic and social contributions of the resources sector were insufficient to spread the benefits of the boom.

The draft report, due in caucus in late November, calls for the government to sponsor an independent private sector study on Australia’s increased reliance on the mining industry.

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