Timor offers thousands of workers

The West Australian

January 17, 2007

Timor offers thousands of workers


CANBERRA — Thousands of East Timorese workers could be sent to
Australia under a proposal by the countrys president, Jose Ramos
Horta, which business groups say could help ease the crippling skills crisis.

Dr Ramos Horta plans to approach Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with his
idea, after unsuccessfully lobbying the previous Howard government.

He said the plan would help both countries, with just one in seven
people in East Timors 300,000-strong labour force having a regular
income while Australia was crying out for workers. “So I would plead
with Australia to let in a few hundred Timorese, a few thousand, for
lets say up to nine months of the year,” Dr Ramos Horta said.

The International Labour Organisation estimates that 215,000 people
will enter East Timors labour market by 2020, putting immense
pressure on the countrys young economy.

WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist John Nicolau
urged the Government to take the proposal seriously.

“One of our key recommendations in our study into human capital was
the need to look at immigration, both permanent and temporary, and
looking at ways to increase it to facilitate the increased labour
force, and this is one such measure that really should be considered
seriously,” he said.

The chamber also supported widening the 457 temporary skilled migrant
visa to allow more migrants.

“Not surprisingly its the unskilled occupations that are the highest
in need along with a lot of the skilled professions. Overall, all
jobs have an element of skill and its about broadening those jobs
that can qualify (under the 457).”

UnionsWA secretary Dave Robinson said the Governments first priority
was to make sure Australian workers were given every opportunity to
gain employment.

Beyond that, he would welcome East Timorese migrants, but only if
they came to Australia permanently. “They are welcome here as
citizens and not on the basis of sole temporary migration just to
work, but to incorporate into our community. This would benefit the
whole community, rather then bringing them in for short-term labour
fixes that dont do anybody any good.”

“I believe we have some responsibility for whats happened in East
Timor and should help sort out the huge level of unemployment and
train up East Timorese.”

The WA CCI says WA will need 400,000 more workers in the next decade
to sustain economic growth.

The Federal Government is considering changing 457 laws after WA
asked for more skilled migrants to be directed to the boom State.

WA Treasurer Eric Ripper said he would not oppose the plan.

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