Friday March 4 2005 11:00am WST
For Immediate Release
"Australia's prime minister John Howard could halve the number of the announced skilled migrant intake if he were only prepared to look in the backyard first", WA Refugee group Project SafeCom said today.
"The Australian government's announcement of an increased intake of twenty-thousand skilled workers confirms The Case of The Revolving Door in terms of the activities of the Department of Immigration - DIMIA, where on the one hand we open the entry door for new migrants, while on the other hand, in an appalling form of discrimination, we keep shutting the door on opportunities for those who are already here: refugees and asylum seekers in the community.
"Australia already has 8,000 refugees on Temporary Visas, many of them skilled, able and willing and keen as mustard to find work. While mainstream migrant visa changes were announced by Senator Vanstone with much pomp and ceremony prior to the 2004 Federal election, just 2-3% of TPV holders have benefited from these changes.
"And the story gets only worse after this: up to 8,000 Bridging Visa Class E asylum seekers live in the Australian community in "strict community detention": living without access to government services, without access to Medicare, without access to Employment assistance, not even eligible for a discount ticket on the bus.
"Since the Boxing Day tsunami Minister Vanstone's attention should have shifted in particular to about 500 Sri Lankans in this context: many of them have Australian-born children, have a similar situation to the East-Timorese, ignored for years, and that only because under the narrow UN Refugee Convention guidelines they do not qualify for protection - and they are living under the breadline in a tremendously wealthy country.
"The Bridging Visa E is a scandalous form of imprisonment for the estimated 8000 holders of this "Living-Under-The-Bridge" Visa. If the PM, the Immigration Minister, and DIMIA had any sense and compassion at all, they could save themselves millions of dollars by offering training, visas, and pro-active programs together with refugee support organisations such as the Melbourne-based Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and other centres."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Plan to import fruit harvest workers
By Geoff Adams
February 28 2005
International guest workers could be used to help bolster labour numbers for the annual Goulburn Valley fruit harvest under a scheme being investigated by a fruit industry body.
The idea is likely to attract some controversy, with unions almost certain to oppose such a proposal.
Northern Victoria Fruitgrowers' Association wants up to five per cent of fruit grower labour requirements filled by a special scheme during peak harvest times.
Association executive officer Ross Wall said similar schemes operated successfully around the world.
"Over a harvest season this may equate to several hundred workers who can assist to remove the quickly maturing pome and stone fruit crops spread across a five-month harvest period from mid-December to mid-May," Mr Wall said.
He said the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs had initiated a review of employment opportunities as a part of identifying options for foreign aid packages.
"Such schemes could have broader application for residents of East Timor or Indonesia or potentially to assist tsunami victims in the recent Asian disaster," Mr Wall said.
Figures from Shepparton's Harvest Labour Office show about 80 per cent of the pickers placed so far this season have been from overseas, with about 65 per cent of these female.
Goulburn Valley growers will meet Federal Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone within the next month to discuss labour shortages and the way immigration raids occur.
Federal Member for Murray Sharman Stone suggested the concept of a temporary visa for seasonal workers to overcome chronic labour shortages in the Goulburn Valley.
The US, Canada, Switzerland and Israel all run successful labour importation schemes in which workers are given temporary visas.
"There is always a concern in Australia that an overseas worker might literally 'disappear' into the economy after their visa expires, because we are such a multiracial, multicultural society and we have such a huge continent," Dr Stone said in a speech to federal parliament.
"But other countries have come up with some quite careful and workable solutions - obviously negotiated with the home country and with the workers themselves."
Temporary work visas in other countries have included provisions such as withholding wages until they return to their home country, and making compliance a condition to qualify for future work permits.
Further details in tomorrow's Country News.