Government considers 20 000 extra skilled workers for resources sector

A new plan being considered by the Gillard government could help fill the gaps in the skilled workers shortage.

As the mining boom continues, the need for labour has increased and the federal government is examining a plan to allow an extra 20 000 skilled migrants into Australia.

Treasurer Wayne Swan is under pressure from Treasury bureaucrats to increase the skilled migrant intake, particularly for Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

The Government’s hope to bring the budget back to surplus by 2012-13 would be more likely to happen if the migrant intake was increased, particularly as the Treasury will need to find ways to cover the funds redirected for the flood levy.

The increase in workers would take the total annual number of skilled migrants to over 133 000.

This it the target set out by the Government’s 2008-09 budget, but goes against comments made by Julia Gillard shortly after she became Prime Minister, that she was against a ‘big Australia’.

The target figure was altered due to the global financial crisis (GFC), to around 110 000 annually for skilled migrant workers and 168 700 for migrants overall.

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.

The increase proposed in the 2008-09 budget would have increased Federal revenue by nearly $3 billion, and $1 million would have been shared amongst the states from extra GST revenue.

Western Australian Regional Affairs Minister Brendan Grylis said more workers would be welcome in the state.

"The last Federal election was fought on a ‘smaller Australia’ policy, whereas you can’t find anyone in WA that actually agrees with that," he said.

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