Thursday, 7 September 2006
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Senator Amanda Vanstone. Will the minister outline to the Senate the value of skilled migration to various sectors of the Australian economy?
I thank Senator Fierravanti-Wells for the question. Australians have been enjoying an economic boom, and that is great news, but every bit of silver lining has a little bit of a cloud, and what that means is that we now have some skills shortages. Of course, if Labor were in charge, we probably would never have had the boom—and they would have run it into the ground. We all remember the five minutes of economic sunshine that Australia was able to enjoy, brief as it was. I think that was before the recession we had to have.
What we see now with this particular visa, the business long-stay 457 visa, is business wanting to grow, expand and take the opportunity of these good economic times to make themselves stronger. They need to bring people in, get them on the job and get going. But what do we see from the opposition? What we see is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Jenny Macklin, saying, ‘This visa is designed to drive down wages.’ That is what they are worried about.
I was so surprised, when I looked at a United States website called the Union Jobs Clearinghouse, to see an ad for the National Union of Workers in Australia looking for a US corporate campaigner for Australia. I thought: ‘This is a bit surprising. I thought all the union expertise was sitting opposite here!’ In any event, the ad was placed on 30 January this year, and what it said was: ‘We are currently seeking to recruit an experienced corporate campaigner from the United States to come out to Australia to support low-wage Australian workers, train Australian organisers in the skills necessary’—and I hope business is listening—‘to take on large corporations and win.’ That is going to go down really well in the electorate, ‘take on large corporations and win’—after all, they provide jobs and you want to beat them into the ground! It went on to say: ‘Significant experience in research and corporate campaigning in unions in the United States, including leadership roles, and possesses the capacity to educate and train other organisations. Excellent salary and benefits’—apparently—‘will be paid.’ The ad said that the union would take care of all the necessary visa, flight and accommodation details. I thought: ‘What visa could that person come in on? Heavens above, what visa could they use if they didn’t want to wait long?’ Well, that would be the 457 visa.
So that begged the question: why can’t they find a suitable candidate here? Heavens above, these people have spent millions of dollars of union money on a campaign against Work Choices, so they have apparently got some campaigning experience, but still they recognise that some overseas skills might come in handy, so they whack a job on the internet to bring someone in from the United States. Perhaps it is because all the talent is here. I look across and think, ‘No, that can’t be right.’ I went further on the website and there was a testimonial from the National Union of Workers. The testimonial says: ‘We have received many quality applications and are in the process of interviewing.’ Thank you very much, United States. Come on down, come down here and take union-organising jobs. It begs the question: what quality is there in the Australian union movement?
Unions are not content with only undermining the government’s legislative changes; they are now looking at saying to their own people, ‘You haven’t got the skills we need.’ I thought, ‘I wonder if this job was advertised in Australia,’ so I sent someone up to the library. There is a long story here, Senator Fierravanti-Wells—one that might roll on a bit. We went through the Australian and we had a look to see what was advertised, and we could not find it. I thought, ‘Well, that’s why Senator Bolkus got rid of labour market testing, because, if the ad is in the wrong paper or the paper you do not look at, it does not mean much.’ The union recognise that. That is why they whacked it straight on the web. But there are more examples. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister expand on the skills that she says were lacked by the union and the specific skills that they were looking for overseas? Does she have any further information regarding the quest of the advertisement in looking for these skills in Australia?
I noticed that there was an ad for the National Tertiary Education Union and the Canberra office of the Australian Services Union, indicating that even the unions are benefiting from the boom in Australia. The NUW, as I said, may have advertised elsewhere, but you would have trouble finding it. That is not the first time this has been used. The NUW’s comrades in the Finance Sector Union have an industrial relations officer from the United Kingdom who came here on a 457 visa. The Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union have got a 457 industrial relations officer from the United States. Come on down, teamsters, and show us how to do it! You do need a bit of help, I agree. That confirms the value of the visa. The National Tertiary Education Industry Union has got an industrial relations officer on a 457 visa. Some of these have moved to permanency, showing that this visa allows you to bring in the skills you need. Shift them to permanent if you want. (Time expired) The union—
Honourable senators interjecting—