Gillard jawbones employers about hiring Australians first

Just political grandstaning. Only legislation would have any appreciable effect

The Prime Minister of Australia has urged employers to prioritise local workers over skilled migrants in filling jobs.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has told the media that vacant employment positions - particualrly in the lucrative mining and resources sector - should be filled by Australian workers rather than imported skilled labour, ahead of the national jobs forum in Canberra commencing Friday 7 October.

Ms Gillard said that unemployed Australians could be trained to fill demand in the mines. She specifically raised the possibility of re-training retrenched steelworks workers in Western Australia, and providing new opportunities to regional and rural communities through skills training.

"We don't want to leave a kid in Kwinana in Western Australia on the unemployment queue without skills while the people who operate big mines in the north-west of the state say can you import a plumber or a cook or an electrician for me," Gillard told Radio National. "I want that kid to get that opportunity."

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has supported the Prime Minister's comments, claiming that the use of skilled migrants indicates a lack of local skills training on the part of industry.

"The reason we are in this mess at the moment is that the mining industry has not invested in skills," said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

"They are not training apprentices, they are not training their workers. For years they have neglected this important part of their responsibility as an employer."

The Government amended the Australian immigration intake in 2009, reducing the number of skilled migrants to 115,000.

However, despite the imposed limit and recent comments, the Government also indicated in the Federal Budget handed down in May that the skilled migrant intake would be increased in 2012. 16,000 additional Australia visa grants will be allocated to skilled foreigners next year.


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