West Australian training minister Peter Collier has blamed the Federal Governments visa processing program for the failure of a program to bring 150 000 skilled Irish workers temporarily to WA.
The influx of Irish workers, particularly trade workers, entering Australia has increased rapidly in recent years, with close to 4000 skilled migrants from places including Ireland entering Western Australia on 457 visas in 2010.
In the last six months of 2009, Irish workers entering Australia on 457 visas increased by 91%, and changes to Australian immigration.
Collier lead a delegation to Ireland last year to try and recruit skilled workers to meet the predicted 450 000 labour shortfall, according to The West Australian.
However Ciaran Cannon, Ireland’s training and skills minister, wrote Collier last month and stated that Australia’s current visa requirements were "one of the major obstacles preventing skilled Irish workers from taking up positions" in the State.
Collier stated that they had attempted to bypass these problems by using 457 sponsored visas.
However despite this the Federal Government still ignored requests from WA to relax entry conditions, Collier added.
"Unless the Federal Government shows some flexibility and foresight with regard to our labour force needs . . . projects in WA are seriously at risk," he said.
This is despite the government examining a plan to let in another 20 000 skilled migrants for the mining industry alone.
A speech by David Gruen, one of the Treasury’s most senior officials, said at a resources boom conference that Australia needs to lift the migrant intake, as it would benefit not only the resources and construction sectors, but also other industries struggling to fill workers gaps, like manufacturing.
Despite Collier’s claims, Federal immigration minister Chris Bowen rejected the notion that Australian visa criteria have restricted the migration of skilled Irish workers.
"Last year, the Government almost doubled the number of working holidaymaker visas granted to Irish nationals, up to almost 22,000 places," Bowen said.
"Ireland is now the third largest source of temporary skilled migrants through the 457 visa program."
Approximately 10 000 workers will be needed in Western Australia’s Goldfields region alone in the coming year.