Mining Companies & Labor Govt bringing in foreign workers to undercut Australian wages
by Peter Myers Newsletter on 08 Apr 2012 0 Comment

For years, the Trots and their Anarchist fellow-travellers have lambasted those who oppose immigration as racist and “far right”. Now, however, the Unions see that the livelihoods of ordinary Australian workers are being undermined by mass immigration of workers to displace them. The Trots & Anarchists have gone strangely quiet on this issue. Green Left Weekly has nothing to say about it, but keeps welcoming asylum-seekers: As Labor Governments betray the working class, they in turn cease voting Labor. We may be entering an era of mass struggle like the 1890s. The workers will defend themselves against the Trotskyist traitors in their midst.

(1) Mining Companies & Labor Gov’t bringing in foreign workers to undercut Australian wages

CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: The fear of cheap imported workers driving down wages is etched deep in Australia’s psyche. And the century-old spectre is rising again, with the mining boom’s insatiable demand for labour. The resource industry has now embraced enterprise migration agreements that bring in semi-skilled migrants en masse to staff mining
projects. And leading the charge is Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart. The Government’s a keen supporter of the plan, but as Greg Hoy reports, there’s a rebellion brewing among unions amid allegations that the schemes are being rorted.

GREG HOY, REPORTER: In feeding Asia’s voracious appetite for steel a new minefield is opening for Australia’s Iron Lady. Gina Rinehart is digging in on what she says is the number one problem threatening major resource projects in Australia: an acute labour shortage.

Her new Roy Hill iron ore project is now negotiating with government Australia’s first enterprise migration agreement, or EMA. Though details are confidential, it’s believed this would bring in around 1,500 semi-skilled migrants such as scaffolders, riggers and bulldozer drivers.

DAVE NOONAN, NATIONAL SECRETARY, CFMEU: These people have showed that they’ve got immense power, immense wealth and they’re prepared to go publicly and attack governments where they disagree with them.

GREG HOY: It’s true the Federal Government and mining associations are highly supportive of EMAs for mining investments worth $2 billion or more.

CHRIS BOWEN, IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP MINISTER: We need enterprise migration agreements to cut red tape for very large resources projects which’ll have a very strong demand for labour. And the biggest risk to many of these projects proceeding is simply being able to assure people that they will have the labour to do the job.

GEOFF BULL, AUST. MINES AND METALS ASSN: There are a number of large resource projects in WA, there are a number of large resource projects under construction in Queensland in the LNG gas area, there a number of expansions in the hard rock mining area and they’ll all be looking to see whether the enterprise migration agreement is something that they can use.

GREG HOY: But critics are highly suspicious.

BOB BIRRELL, POPULATION RESEARCH, MONASH UNI: All of this is surrounded in secrecy. Thousands of domestic workers are being precluded from gaining access to those jobs.

GREG HOY: Unions claim you’re just trying to please mining magnates, the process is far too secretive and Australians will miss out on those jobs?

CHRIS BOWEN: On the contrary, enterprise migration agreements are necessary to create jobs, because without them, there’s a real risk that some large projects won’t proceed.

DAVE NOONAN: There’s not much evidence that investment in the mining sector’s being impeded. There are tens of the billions of dollars being invested in the mining sector right now.

GREG HOY: Gina Rinehart has put her proposed solution to poetry. “The globe is sadly groaning with debt, poverty and strife, And billions now are pleading to enjoy a better life.”And then further on, “Embrace multiculturalism and welcome short-term foreign workers to our shores, to benefit from the export of our minerals and ores.”

DAVE NOONAN: Gina Rinehart’s proposition is that she wants to raise up the poorer people in the developing world. Some people may believe that. I don’t.

BULL: There’s a huge cost in bringing people from overseas and it is a last resort. And in addition to that, they must commit to training Australians.

GREG HOY: Critics question the track record of commitments to train Australians and have long called for a central registry and job sites for Australians who want to work in the mines.

BOB BIRRELL: Over the past two years there’s been no growth in the employed construction workforce in Australia and a downturn in such employment in the eastern states. There are now tens of thousands of domestic workers who would like to get access to those mining industry jobs.

GREG HOY: But won’t mining companies simply prefer to use migrants workers with far less bargaining power?

CHRIS BOWEN: I would need to be convinced that it is in a mining company’s interest to bring in workers when there are Australian workers available.

DAVE NOONAN: That’s done under the current system by the company going off and hiring a consultant to tell them that there is a shortage of local workers. And I hate to be cynical, but quite frankly, consultants will tell you anything that you wanna hear if ya pay them enough.

GREG HOY: As for 457 visas for more skilled migrants, employers are required by immigration law to pay migrants the same market rate as Australians, though there are serious concerns this can be easily rorted. Large numbers of Chinese workers have been brought in on 457 visas by the giant Sino Iron project near Karratha in WA. Since 2010, unions have complained they’ve been seriously underpaid in breach of the law.

DAVE NOONAN: There are hundreds of workers from China working on half the rate that Australian workers doing the same work are on. Many of those workers, we believe, are working in breach of their visas, they’re working in breach of 457 visas because they’re working at semi-skilled or unskilled work. The Immigration Department has received numerous complaints about this and they have been derelict in their duty about doing anything about it.

: Did you know about this?

CHRIS BOWEN: Look, I am aware of that and that is being investigated and any breaches of the 457 or the Fair Work Act are taken very seriously. But I’d make this point: we do build in protections, we do make sure that there’s hurdles that employers must cross in order to justify skilled or semi-skilled migration and market rates must be paid.

GREG HOY: Sino Iron says the project has been cleared by the Fair Work Ombudsman, which did in fact defer to the Immigration Department as to whether workers had been paid at the market rate.

DAVE NOONAN: The Government needs to stop just talk about standing up for working Australians against the interests of the big mining bosses and do something practical about it and enforce their own laws.

GREG HOY: Another example unions cite surrounds the tragic death in a maintenance accident last year at Dampier in WA of a 28-year-old Irish scaffolder, Sean McBride, who had been brought in to Australia on a 457 visa.

DAVE NOONAN: A number of people working for that company were brought into Australia on the pretext of being project administrators, but in fact have been employed as scaffolders. That’s because they would not have been able to get visas as scaffolders. Immigration have been very slow in actually investigating that matter.

GREG HOY: Are you familiar with this case, minister?

: Yes, I am, and again, there’s a range of OHS requirements, Fair Work Australia requirements and Department of Immigration requirements, and with individual cases there’ll be individual inquiries and where action is appropriate under any of the existing acts of Parliament, then action will be taken.

GREG HOY: There are now well over 80,000 workers in Australia already on 457 visas and we are often reminded that they are only temporary. But in reality, just how temporary will these temporary migrant workers be?


BOB BIRRELL: This is a very important point, and I would expect that at least half, if not more will subsequently stay on in Australia as permanent-entry migrants.

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, if a worker likes it in Australia and their employer likes them, there is capacity for them to apply for permanent migration. But market rates must be paid and there are other costs for bringing in overseas workers which the employer must pay which I think means that employers will always look very closely at trying to get domestic labour before they look offshore.

: That report from Greg Hoy.

(2) Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr calls traditional Labor voters racist

BRENDAN NICHOLSON, The Australian, March 24, 2012

THE Coalition has accused Bob Carr of branding Labor’s faithful “racists” after the new Foreign Minister said John Howard and Tony Abbott were “pulling levers about race to get generally working-class supporters to respond to their nasty little clarion calls”.

“Yes, you’ve seen that. You saw that for a time with John Howard and ... you see it from time to time with Tony Abbott,” Senator Carr said on Thursday night.

The Foreign Minister was philosophising on the ABC’s Lateline program about the willingness of conservative leaders to harness concerns about issues to pull working-class voters away from the liberal parties they traditionally supported.

Senator Carr said a lot of things bad for America were unleashed by the Nixon presidency. “There were things about Nixon I liked - the opening to China - but I think a lot of genies came out of the bottle and there was a tainting of the American system. I think a lot of the politics of Nixon in rallying a white political base against liberalism opened some genies. I think it was bad for a nation that I’m overwhelmingly fond of.”

Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison retorted yesterday that Senator Carr had betrayed Labor’s true feelings about Australians concerned about Labor’s border protection policies. “He’s effectively calling them racists,” Mr Morrison said.

“Before the last election Julia Gillard tried to tell Australians that was not what Labor thought when she announced her failed East Timor plan but now Labor’s true feelings have been exposed again,” Mr Morrison said. “It shows how desperate and pathetic Labor excuses and defences have become for their failed border protection policies when Sideshow Bob descends to this sort of level.”

And the Opposition Leader described Senator Carr as a loose cannon and criticised him over his concerns about large-scale immigration to Australia. “Well, I think it’s very odd to find the Foreign Minister saying that skilled people shouldn’t be coming into our country,” Mr Abbott said. “This is a government which can’t stop the boats but wants to stop the
skills. I think what we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks is a Foreign Minister who is liable to become a loose cannon in the Australian polity.”

Senator Carr said that because Mr Abbott blocked the Malaysian Solution, Australia was left with “a half-baked, improvised, unwilling Indonesian solution”.


“But we’ve got more people at risk at sea, we’ve got a greater temptation for people-smugglers to bring people into our waters and we’ve lot less chance of an orderly handling of this issue.”

Senator Carr also said he’d counselled Israel not to take military action against Iran’s nuclear program. “I said that to the Israeli Foreign Minister when I spoke to him last week. We think it’d be a perilous course of action for Israel. In other words, let’s adhere to the sanctions.”


Peter Myers is a writer who lives a simple life on a small farm. Apart from writing, he builds whatever’s needed, does the plumbing, and grows subtropical and tropical fruits. He has done a number of academic courses, but finds academia (in the West) too narrow and ex-cathedra in its mindset: stifling of genuine creative thought. Genuine independent thinking now takes place outside official circles, on the internet.


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