Sparks fly as a sheet metal worker fabricates a piece of mining equipment at Mastermyne Engineering.   Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
Sparks fly as a sheet metal worker fabricates a piece of mining equipment at Mastermyne Engineering. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin Chris Ison ROK270613cengineer9

Madness that allowed foreign workers a foot in the door

BRINGING in foreign workers to work as shearers in Australia is akin to Scotland looking to Asia for bagpipe players, or Germany hunting far and wide overseas for sauerkraut manufacturers.

It's madness.

But that is what the 457 visa program had become - a madness which allowed foreign workers a foot in the door in this great country, taking up jobs that can and should be done by Australians.

Some of the other job categories which were on offer to foreign workers also beggar belief.

Horse trainers? Master fishers? Sports administrators? Butchers?

It's hard to believe that not one Aussie could be found to fill such iconic roles.

What about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers?

Seriously? We needed to look overseas to fill roles which should best be understood by those in this nation's health industry who are far more likely to understand the culture and issues faced?

There was a time when this region, in particular, needed to look further afield for workers in the mining and mining support industries because we were going through an unprecedented boom and we could not find enough able-bodied men and women to meet the demand. But those days are long past.

About six months ago I called for an end to 457 visas in central and north Queensland.

This week's outcome goes a step further, and abolishes the troubled program altogether.

Yes, there will be sectors of our economy where we need to import the skills of others to fill the gaps in our workforce.

Those needs will still be met under new arrangements.

But the 457 visa program, which allowed dubious employers to hire overseas workers and exploit them through paying lower wages, had to stop.

The 457 visa program, which allowed dubious employers to hire workers for a job category that was allowable under the scheme and then give them jobs that weren't; that had to go.

Not everyone will abuse a system, but there are always plenty who will.

And when a system isn't working, and Australian workers pay the price as a result, that system has to go.

We live in the best country in the world. So there's no wonder others are envious of our lifestyle and pay and conditions.

But it will only remain the best country in the world if we protect what we have, and a necessary component of that protection is a dogged determination to always put Australian workers, Australian jobs and Australian interests first.

GEORGE CHRISTENSEN,

MEMBER FOR DAWSON


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