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Monday, 11 February 2013
Page: 729


Mr MORRISON (Cook) (20:50): We like to speak romantically about the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme, the post-war migration labour force that built it and the testament it is to the successful immigration program. But I wonder when I listen to what those in the Labor Party and the trade union movement say about skilled and semi-skilled migration whether these are just stories they like to tell and whether they actually believe the sentiments behind them.

More than 100,000 people, from over thirty countries, came to the mountains to work on that project. Those workers were Australian-born, German, Greek, Irish, Italian, Norwegian, British, Polish and Yugoslav. Up to 7,300 workers provided their labour at any one time. Seventy per cent of all workers were migrants and most migrant workers on the scheme arrived under assisted migration schemes The project cost $820 million to complete at the time and, if repeated today, it would be worth $8 billion to the Australian economy.

In my home town of Sydney, migrants also came to work on another major feat of engineering, the Warragamba Dam—a project that took 20 years to build and at times involved more 1,800 people working across three shifts, seven days a week, to get the job done. The workers were drawn from more than 25 different nationalities. The labour was very difficult and dangerous and 14 men lost their lives in the course of the dam's construction.

A project such as the Snowy, which had an economic contribution of $8 billion in today's terms, makes me think about the Roy Hill Mine project. This project is worth $9.5 billion to Australia, will employ more than 6,000 Australians and requires a maximum of 1,700 foreign skilled workers. Under the agreement, the company will provide up to 2,000 training places for Australians, including 230 apprentices and trainees and preparing 110 indigenous Australians for work in construction. English-language requirements are consistent with what is required under the 457 program, which commenced under the Howard government. The arrangements would be reviewed every six to 12 months, and employers would be bound by migration law to provide overseas workers with the same terms and conditions of employment as Australian project employees. This was all carefully engineered to protect Australian workers and act as a disincentive to the exploitation of foreign labour. If backed up and competently implemented—a big ask for this government—enterprise migration agreements do represent good policy. The government often complains about the lack of support from coalition for their policy measures. We have always said that when you come up with a good policy, we will support. Well guess what? They did. Amazing, I know, but they have come up with a good policy with enterprise migration agreements and we support them.

The government also seeks this bipartisan support, but on the day of the Prime Minister's announcement of the Roy Hill EMA the Prime Minister amazingly claimed to be furious, caved into union pressure and hung her then immigration minister out to dry, casting doubt over the arrangement and the policy. With the departure of that minister, its one remaining champion being the minister for resources, this enterprise migration agreement will be an orphan. We are into another year—this was announced in May—and the agreement and deed has still not been signed. I suppose it is some comfort for the Greens to know that the incompetence of this government will ensure that this EMA will never be signed, it will never happen and they will have nothing to worry about from their perspective. But this creates a real issue in terms of this government's sincerity when they talk about a skilled migration program. When they go out there and talk to investors, they say one thing and announce grand schemes and policies only to never be able to follow through. It now rests with the new Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, from clan O'Connor of the CFMEU clan, who will be there and in a position to oversee whether this arrangement is finalised. I am not going to hold my breath. I do not think the investors will and I do not think the project proponents will, because this policy is withering on the vine and I have no doubt that it will wither with this new union dominated minister.

The bill as intentioned simply tries to add further regulation and further regulatory burden to an already overcomplicated arrangement. The coalition wants to take the regulatory burden off the back of business in this country, not continue to stifle it as this government has done with thousands upon thousands of new regulations bundled onto the back of business in this country and stifling innovation. If you want to know why productivity has fallen off, it is because this government has killed innovation through overregulation. The one key commitment, above all others that the coalition has given to restore productivity, is to attack over regulation. That is why we will not be supporting this bill. We will not be supporting this bill and the government will join us in opposing this bill, but I guarantee you that this government will never sign an EMA.