18/02/2008 - 12:34

Federal skilled migration package finds support in WA

18/02/2008 - 12:34

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Western Australia's Chamber of Minerals and Energy has welcomed the package of skilled migration measures announced by the minister for immigration and citizenship, senator Chris Evans.

Western Australia's Chamber of Minerals and Energy has welcomed the package of skilled migration measures announced by the minister for immigration and citizenship, senator Chris Evans.

As part of the package unveiled yesterday, the government will increase its Skilled Migration program intake by 6,000 places in 2007-08, bringing the total number of permanent visas granted under the Skill Stream of the migration program to 108,500 during the period.

The increase will be made up of permanent employer sponsored visas and general skilled migration visas.

CME WA chief executive Reg Howard-Smith welcomed the additional skilled migration places, in particular, the increase in permanent entry employer nomination places.

"We also are encouraged by the minister's announcement of an External Reference Group to inform the discussion on the 457 programme, which has vital importance to the resources sector in Australia," he said.

The reference group includes Peter Coates (former Chairman, Minerals Council of Australia) and Tim Shanahan (director, Energy and Minerals Initiative, UWA and former chief executive of the CME), and will provide an interim report to the minister by March 14, with a final report due in April.

"The Australian resources industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in Australia. By 2015 we will require at least another 70,000 workers, 70 per cent of whom will be semi-skilled and trades-people.

"Supporting a local workforce will remain the first priority for industry, however the resources sector will increasingly need to utilise skilled migration to meet its short term and longer term growth needs" Howard-Smith said.

"The CME looks forward to a continuing relationship with Senator Evans on skilled migration policy as it affects the Western Australian resources sector."

The CME has provided a briefing paper to the minister and has participated in the recent ministerial consultations in Perth, speaking on behalf of the resources sector in Western Australia.

Senator Evans said in a statement yesterday that negotiations were also underway with other countries to expand the reciprocal Working Holiday visa program for young people.

To specifically assist the construction industry, changes to the Working Holiday visa program will enable people who undertake at least three months work in the construction sector in regional Australia to extend their 12 month working holiday visa by another year.

This provision is already available to people who work in primary industry in regional Australia, which includes the agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining industries.

Senator Evans said that the number of people who had extended their working holiday visa by another year under the scheme had almost trebled from 2,690 in 2005-06 to 7,990 in 2006-07 and was expected to increase by 51 per cent this financial year to more than 10,000.

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