Budget 2011-12: New Temporary Migration Agreements to Further Address Skills Demand
Tuesday, 10 May 2011
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, today announced the government will look to halve 457 visa processing times and implement a new temporary migration initiative to address the skill needs of the resources sector – while shoring up strong investment in domestic training.
Mr Bowen said the new Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs) would allow major resource projects to gain access to overseas labour for genuine skills vacancies that cannot be filled from the Australian labour market.
'This new initiative will streamline negotiation arrangements for access to overseas workers and guarantee faster processing times for visa applications,' Mr Bowen said.
'EMAs will be a custom-designed, project-wide migration arrangement uniquely suited to the resources sector, ensuring skills shortages do not create constraints on major projects and jeopardise Australian jobs.
'With $380 billion of investment in the pipeline for resources projects, we are approaching a critical juncture in the construction phases of a number of major projects. Access to overseas labour will ensure the peak workforce needs of these projects are met, realising the economic and employment benefits of the projects.'
Mr Bowen said overseas workers would only be a temporary solution, with the ultimate focus on local skills and training.
'To be approved for an EMA, projects will need to develop a comprehensive training plan, demonstrating how the project will invest in the up-skilling of Australians to meet future skills needs in the resources sector,' he said.
'This plan will need to set measurable targets for training that develops skills in occupations where there are known or anticipated shortages.
'Overseas labour will only be supplementary, with resources projects required to demonstrate effective and ongoing local recruitment efforts.'
Mr Bowen said EMAs would be available to projects with capital expenditure of $2 billion or more and a peak workforce of 1500 workers.
Existing migration options will continue to be available to resource projects that do not meet these thresholds, including about two weeks' processing for decision-ready temporary skilled subclass 457 visas.
'While processing times for 457 visas have reduced by 30 per cent over the past five years, the government will establish a new processing centre in Brisbane and aims to reduce processing times even further,' Mr Bowen said.
'The goal is to deliver a 10-day median processing time for applications which are complete at the time they are lodged.
'This additional processing site, with a significant number of extra visa processing staff, will ensure that complete applications are allocated and processed as quickly as possible.
'The 457 visa program benefits Australian industry by providing access to the global market of workers when suitably skilled workers cannot be found locally.'
The program is uncapped, demand-driven and highly responsive to the economic cycle. It provides a flexible avenue for employers to fill immediate and short-term skills vacancies and is on track to record its strong year yet.
Mr Bowen said the Department of Immigration and Citizenship would also deliver an improved regional strategy, to ensure regional employers secure the information they need about various migration and visa programs available to help them fill skilled vacancies.
'The robust integrity framework introduced in 2009 will continue to ensure that only genuinely skilled workers enter Australia,' he said.
'These protections will ensure this initiative will not be used to undercut Australian wages or exploit overseas workers.'
Today's announcement follows the government's acceptance in March of all the National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce's 31 recommendations, which included the introduction of EMAs.
Last update: Tuesday, 10 May 2011 at 19:34 AEST