Western Australia Minister for Training and Workforce Development Peter Collier
Federal Government Thwarts WA’s Ability To Get Skilled Workers
Victor P Taffa
The Liberal-National Government will continue to apply pressure on the Federal Government to make changes to its visa program, following a positive response to a delegation in the United Kingdom targeting skilled migrants.
The delegation is led by Training and Workforce Development Minister Peter Collier to promote the attributes of living and working in Western Australia to potential skilled migrants.
Speaking from the UK, Mr. Collier said he had received positive feedback from the people he had met and were keen to come to WA, but faced major hurdles with the Federal Government’s visa process.
“Coming to the end of our trip, we have met thousands of people in the UK.” Mr. Collier said.
“The one clear message we are constantly being given is that people want to come to WA but are often frustrated by the Federal visa process, which is holding back the ability of skilled workers coming to the State.”
“The Government has appealed for changes to the Federal migration program to help WA supplement its workforce needs I met with Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Bowen in March to discuss these changes in detail.” Mr. Collier said.
“It’s no secret that there will be huge demands on WA’s future workforce needs it’s been well documented and reported, yet the Federal Government seems completely oblivious to our requirements.”
Key points the Minister raised with Mr. Bowen during their meeting included recognition of Perth under the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme; providing greater flexibility with visas, particularly in expanding the type of skilled occupations that qualify for 457 visas; expanding the use of Working Holiday Maker and Student visas; reviewing the new International English Language Test Score; considering incentives to increase the level of foreign students entering Australia and to encourage them to join the domestic workforce; reviewing the proposed new points test requirements for the Skilled Migration Program; and reviewing the allocation of State sponsored visas.
“While I finally received a response to the issues raised, after at least three months, it’s not good news for WA.” Mr. Collier said.
“WA has presented some real solutions to assist with our workforce needs, but it seems the Federal Government is not willing to discuss alternatives beyond their existing parameters.”
“This is further proof that the Federal Government has little or no understanding of what’s required to support the State’s future workforce demands.” Mr. Collier said.
With more than $225 Billion of resource and infrastructure projects planned or under construction, WA is facing a potential shortfall of up to 150,000 skilled workers by 2017.
“Addressing these workforce issues will be a significant challenge for government, industry and the community.” Mr. Collier said.
“Our top priority is to ensure that jobs are filled from within WA but this alone will not be enough – it will be necessary to recruit workers from overseas to boost our skilled labour needs.”
“We need assistance from the Federal Government to ensure we can attract and retain enough skilled workers to meet future demand, yet we are not receiving this support.” Mr. Collier said.
The State’s delegation to the UK includes representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA; Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA; Australian Hotels Association; Motor Trades Association and Civil Contractors Federation, as well as other industry and Government groups. They have met with a range of key organisations over the past 10 days.