Immigration tightened to save jobs
By Renee Viellaris, Michael Madigan, Liam Walsh
The Courier Mail (Brisbane), December 17, 2008
A growing jobs shortage and rising unemployment figures in Australia have forced the Rudd Government to start closing the gate on foreign workers.
Jobs vacancies for skilled workers have plunged 50 per cent in Queensland as demand for professionals and tradespeople dries up and mining giants slash staff.
Nearly 550 Queensland miners were axed on Tuesday and up to $30 billion in planned mining developments are in doubt because of the sudden downturn in world demand for the state's coal.
In response, the Federal Government has moved to tighten immigration laws to protect Australian jobs.
This will involve the Government making it harder for skilled foreign workers to come to Australia, but fast-tracking those who meet critical shortfalls.
Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the revised program would start in January and would better target the workers Australia needed.
'In light of changing economic circumstances, the Rudd Government has reviewed the skilled migration program and consulted with business and industry along with state and territory governments Australia-wide about their skills need,' Senator Evans said.
'There were concerns that the permanent skilled migration program was not delivering the right skills to the right areas and there was an increasing use of the temporary skilled migration program by employees to meet their needs.'
The 133,500 skilled migrants applying to work in Australia will now be required to have a job sponsored by an employer or by a state government before they arrive or meet a critical skills list, including medical, engineering and construction.
The move to save jobs for Australians comes as Treasurer Wayne Swan hit out at a bookmaker who offered $1.12 odds on Australia plunging into recession.
'I think that sort of talk is utterly irresponsible,' Mr Swan said.
'What the Australian Government is doing in the face of the global financial crisis is everything we possibly can to strengthen our economy and to protect jobs in that environment.'
On top of the mining job cuts in the Bowen Basin and northwest Queensland, it yesterday emerged about 80 staff at the Brisbane headquarters of collapsed childcare giant ABC Learning Centres had been sacked.
The losses add to about 100 jobs tipped to go from ABC childcare centres next month.
The Employment Department's job index for skilled workers plunged by more than 50 per cent in Queensland in the past year, the second biggest decrease after NSW.
Nationally, skilled vacancies have dropped by nearly 38 per cent as the financial crisis hit the broader economy.
The biggest drop was for printing trades, which were down by 24.2 per cent, followed by metal trades at 15.8 per cent and wood trades at 14.1 per cent.
The only occupation on the rise was medical and science technical officers, which rose by 0.8 per cent.
The grim economic news follows moves by the US Federal Reserve to reduce interest rates virtually to zero to stimulate the economy out of recession.
Professor of economic policy at Curtin University's Graduate School of Business Peter Kenyon said the resource sector would feel more pain in the short term.