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Minister calls on business to exhaust local workforce option

27 April, 2007

Small Business Minister Margaret Quirk has called on the Western Australian meat industry to support the Carpenter Government's efforts to promote the job prospects of Australian meat workers.

Quirk said that while she supported the aims of the 457 visa scheme to import workers from overseas, it should not be at the expense of the local workforce. 

"The aim of the 457 visa scheme is to allow the entry of foreign workers to fill particular skilled vacancies that cannot be filled by local workers," she said.

"There have been a number of recent lay-offs of meat workers around Australia and any vacancies in the WA industry should first be offered to those skilled workers. In addition, there is a high level of unemployment amongst 18 to 25 year-olds and the industry should be proactive in attempting to attract these people into the industry."

The Minister said Australians were likely to be in a better position than overseas workers to move quickly from their current locations to take advantage of job opportunities.

"The costs associated with employing locally are considerably lower than hiring overseas workers."

Quirk also rejected suggestions that she had blocked the industry from participating in the 457 visa scheme.

"The Carpenter Government has been working with the Federal Government over the past few months to develop a labour agreement which would assist the industry," she said.

"As part of this process, the protection of workers employed under 457 is paramount as is the protection of local jobs for Australians.  At a recent meeting held at my request, Immigration and Citizenship Minister Kevin Andrews informed me that the Federal Government would shortly circulate the agreement. I received advice to that effect last week, so any suggestion that the State is being slow to act is simply untrue," she said.

Quirk said that under the 457 visa scheme, the minimum wage foreign workers could earn in WA's booming economy was $41,850 and this had to be maintained.