Abbott Government to allow maritime visa for offshore work

The Abbott Government has admitted it will be difficult to
repeal laws which mean offshore resource workers must have a visa, and will
seek a way around the issue.

Due to the present hostility of the Senate, the government instead
will try to pass another law saying that offshore workers will only need to
have a maritime crew visa.

Put in place during the final days of the Gillard
Government, the present laws require any foreign workers involved in offshore resource
work to have a 457 visa.

The law was created to counter a Federal Court decision in
2012 which ruled that foreign workers on pipe laying vessels for the Gorgon LNG
project were outside the migration zone and did not need visas.

Workers under a maritime crew visa will not enjoy the same wage
benefits as a citizen worker or worker on a 457 visa. 

The West Australian reported this morning that assistant immigration minister Michaelia Cash will concede today the coalition may not be able to repeal the Labor-era Bill, which requires employers on offshore pipe-laying vessels seek to employ Australian workers first.

“I want to see visa service delivery that meets the needs of
employers without overburdening them with red tape, while ensuring that
migration delivers social and economic strength, prosperity and unity,” Cash
said at an AMMA conference today.

Maritime Union of Australia WA secretary Christy Cain has said
the move will make it harder for Australians who are prepared to relocate for work.

“How is it in the national interest for the Abbott
Government to take away unemployment benefits from young Australians, tell them
they need to move across the country to find work, then stack the odds against
them by bringing in thousands of foreign workers,” Cain said.

“This is a move that might be in the interests of employers
and their shareholders, but it certainly isn’t in the national interest.”

Cain said that a report by BIS Shrapnel and University of Sydney has confirmed that maritime wages make up less than one per cent of the cost of building projects like Gorgon.

“Even the CEO of Chevron doesn’t blame unions for cost
problems on Gorgon,” he said.

“AMMA have hoodwinked the Abbott Government into
implementing a policy that will cost Australian jobs, while delivering no real
improvements to the competitiveness of the LNG industry.” 

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