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ABC News 24: 12 Noon News -

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(generated from captions) Thank you. Let's go live to

Canberra now. This is a Canberra now. This is a media conference with Chris Evans, Chris Bowen and the US

ambassador. I'm here with US

ambassador Geoff bleach and my colleague Chris Bowen the Minister for Immigration to

make an announcement regarding streamlining processes to facilitate more skilled United States workers coming to

Australia in the next few years

to support the skills needs we

will have, particularly in the

heavy civil engineering areas.

Currently, the temporary

migration program has attracted

reasonable numbers of United States citizens with particular skills, but mainly in professional areas and there is skills, but mainly in the

been some interest for a while

now among US companies now among US companies and

large Australian employees in

attracting some skilled labour from the United States. You

would be aware that recently

the United States economy the United States economy has been in a difficult period and

there has been reasonable

numbers of unemployed in the

United States, including in

their construction trades

areas. We've been discussing areas. We've been

with the ambassador with the ambassador and American

American companies for some time whether or not we could do

better at attracting some of that labour to meet the

emerging skills needs in the Australian economy. We're

talking about temporary skills needs, people would be needs, people would be aware that the large amount construction occurring in that the large amount of

Australia in developing mines,

railways and ports, is putting

a huge demand on our existing

civil engineering workforce.

The reality is projections have

our workforce going from about

35,000 currently to perhaps 75,000 or more workers required

in those fields. There's going

to be a spike in the civil construction

construction workforce that

we're going to have to meet. We're obviously very committed

to training more Australians as

the first response. the first response. We've invested heavily in training

and giving opportunities to

Australians to pick up skills. They include not only They include not only the traditional training methods,

but the national workforce

development fund providing

support format tour age

apprentices, a whole range of measures designed to meet those

skills needs. The reality is

we will have a peak in the workforce demands. You

wouldn't want to train to the

peak because that would leave

you with people who were unable

to find work when the peak

subsides. The Minister for

Immigration and I have been

working on plans to try to

allow us to meet the skills needs of the Australian economy during

during that peak period. One

of the things we found is that

we haven't been attracting

trades from the United States

of America because of a range

of barriers, if you like, to successfully bringing those

people in to meet those

temporary skills needs. temporary skills needs. Two of

the measures we are announcing

today will facilitate an

improved flow. The first thing

is under my portfolio we'll be

ensuring that tradespeople in

Australia - in America can Australia - in America can get

their trades recognised there

so when they come to Australia

or are supported by an

employer, they know they'll be able to work in that trade in

Australia. We haven't Australia. We haven't had

strong recognition arrangements with the United States of

America and this will allow us

to have American tradespeople

have their trades recognised

there before seeking to come to there before seeking to come

Australia. This will mean an

employer will know if they seek

to bring someone in that they

have the trades skills that are neck rised in Australia, particularly important for trades like plumbers and

electricians where they will

need to be licensed need to be licensed and

currently they would have to

come to Australia, not sure if

they would get that licence they would get that licence and

it may take some months to get

that licence awarded to them. These changes will allow for recognition in States which will recognition in the United

confidence for the worker and States which will provide

the employer that they will be able to bring them in

temporarily for employment.

Minister Bowen is also got a

measure relating to skills

fairs and tracking Labor in the

United States. I'll get him to talk to you about that and ask

the US ambassador to make

remarks about his Government's

view of these measures. Can I view of these measures. Can

just say, though, this much about a temporary just say, though, this is very

migration measure to meet

skills skills shortages that we

will be in particularly the

civil engineering area. We

States tradespeople in the United know there are good quality

States which we haven't attracted before. The attracted before. The American

contribution to temporary

migration is growing, but largely in

areas largely in the professional

areas and this is an attempt to

make sure we can source some of make sure we can source some

those high quality skilled

tradespeople to assist us in

that peak period which is

likely to come to a head in

about the year 2014-15. about the year 2014-15. I'll

hand over to Minister Bowen.

Thank you very much, Chris. Of

course as you know in course as you know in Australia

we have no trouble attracting

skilled migrants. The real

challenge is ensuring we

attract the skills needed in

Australia with our booming

economy. Of course, there are

the world which are facing very economies in countries around

difficult and different circumstances

appropriate circumstances to ours. What's

appropriate is that we work

together with those countries

to ensure that skilled workers

who are looking for work have

the capacity to fill some of the capacity to

those gaps that we are those gaps that we are facing

in Australia. In addition to

the measures announced by

Minister Evans today, my department will be running for

the first time a skills Expo in

the United States. These are successful events that we've

held in Europe, most

particularly in Greece and in

Ireland, where we ensure that employees

employees who are looking for workers, particularly as Minister Evans said temporary

workers, are put in touch with

those skilled workers who are very very interested in exploring the tune of coming and working

in Australia. Because we in Australia. Because we are particularly focusing on the

resources tech sector and

resource employments, the first

skills Expo will be held in Houston on 19 and 20 May.

These are, as I say, good opportunities opportunities for us to explain

the various mechanisms for skilled

skilled migration to Australia.

The three clear The three clear mechanisms syndicate skilled syndicate skilled migration where people have the

appropriate number of points

and are able to independent migration to

Australia, employer nominated

migration where an employer migration where an employer has

a vacancy and nominates a

particular individual to fill it and of course 457s. The

Australian states is the third

largest source of 457 migration to to Australia but we need to

make sure every opportunity is

taken up. This is a modest

step but day necessary step and one which works in the best

interests of both the United

States and Australia. The

biggest risk to some of our

resources projects being completed in Australia is

actually getting the necessary

skills. The highly skills. The highly specialised

skills in many cases which go

to the construction of large resources projects resources projects and of course that has flow-on effects

throughout the construction sector to ensure that we have the right mix of skills

available. This is actually a measure to create Australian

jobs. When have you economic activity, when have you activity, when have you such big projects being undertaken,

it is vital we are access to

the labour necessary to ensure

those pro is jekts proceed and

ensure jobs are created in the ensure best interests of the

Australian economy, Australian workers and in the workers and in the best

interests of those who come and

work mere and create wealth

while they're here.

Ambassador. First I would like

to thank minstefr advance to thank minstefr advance and

Minister Bowen for Minister Bowen for their leadership on this important

initiative. This is a real win, win for both of our

nations. It matches highly

skilled American workers who are available with a are available with a temporary skills shortage here in Australia to make sure that the

progress and growth and

economic my vitality, continue

particularly in WA and other

parts of Australia, and at the

same time we take advantage of these highly skilled American

particularly

workers who are looking to contribute. One of the great

things about the US migration

here, as Minister Bowen said,

they're mostly 457 visas.

You're talking about people who speak the same language, come

fully skilled, and then leave.

No jobs will be taken away from

Australians and in fact, that's

the goal here, to ye create the

prosperity that will employ more Australians down the road.

The evidence of how strongly

supported this is not only in

the US but also in Australia is

that we have endorsements from the Business Council of Australia, the Australia

industries group, the American

chamber and the US Chamber of

Commerce. This will create an

opportunity for labour unions

as well and trades to exchange

skills and to build on an

already strong relationship. I

think, finally, I would like to mention that there is mention that there is an opportunity here as well for

highly skilled veterans to pursue opportunities to work with Australian companies in

the coming months. We have a

GI bill which provides for

training so that no-one would arrive here who isn't already

fully skilled. You also have

people who have worked in

arduous circumstances away arduous circumstances away from

home and Under in difficult environments, way from their

families, so they're fully

prepared to go out to the

Pilbara and to Karratha and

some of the more remote regions

where these jobs are most in

demand. Again, on behalf of

the United States I want to

for its leadership on this initiative and we think it's

going to benefit both of our

countries and long-term the economic growth of Australia. Thank Australia. Thank you, ambassador. Questions? How many skilled American workers

are are you looking to attract

to Australia under these

measures? The market will

determine that. Supply and

demand will determine that. It

is important that we as a

Government provide maximum opportunities for employees who need workers and for employees

who are interested. We're not

setting a target or cape cap

or a limit. We're simply making the connections. I expects demand and interest in

the United States as it the United States as it has been in Europe, a lot of

interest of coming and interest of coming and working

in Australia, but as I say the important

important thing is the fit,

making sure that the people who

we bring to Australia actually

fit the skills required in

Australia. That's the

challenge, not attracting

actual individuals, making sure that the skills that they

possess are the ones that we

need. I do expect strong demand. Minister, Australia demand. Minister, Australia was

at the wrong end of the brain

drain for a couple of decades,

possibly longer. Now a lot of

the western world is in the

slump of economist fortune,

wouldn't it be the best time to actually correct that brain

drain that went for decades and

encourage these people to stay

in Australia? Again, that will

be up to the individuals and

their employees to determine. We have temporary skills needs

in Australia. We also find that when people come to

Australia, work in Australia, like

like it here and their employer

is happy with them, then

there's an opportunity for them to apply for permanent

migration. That's a very

common feature. Of course,

that has to be a win, win, has to be that has to be a win, win, it has to be good for the individual individual and good for individual and good for the employer and therefore good for

the economy. We heard from the ambassador there's a sensitivity about sensitivity about foreigners,ic

like the Irish and the Americans taking Australian jobs, but if jobs, but if they're going to

be better for the economy, how

can you assure these people

there's an opportunity to stay?

Because if think are able to

stay, ie, there's a vacancy for

them, their employer is happy

with them and it is not a

position that's able to be filled by domestic Australian labour, they could apply

through our normal permanent

migration scheme, most

particularly through the employer nominated permanent my

gracious scheme. You find a

lot of our permanent migration

is based on exactly that

experience. People try it out,

they find they like it in

Australia and their employer is

very happy with their work very happy with their work and that's an opportunity available to to them. Can I make the point

on that, though, in answer to your question, we're

particularly focused on particularly focused on civil

and heavy engineering trade s.

What we've got say peak of activity in building mines,

ports and rail F we were to

actually train to the peak we would end up with an

unemployment problem as we come

down the other side of the

peak. This is very much about trying to meet the demand of

the market for a temporary

increase. The overall activity

is increased. We're training more Australians in the

construction trades and heavy

engineering trades, but the

reality is if we train too millimetre

millimetre m we would then millimetre m we would then left

with a problem end of it. This

is trying to manage in a national economy national economy the balance

between training and giving

Australians the first between training

opportunity but managing that

peak that we know is occurring particularly in the resources

area. We think the area. We think the American's

skill base, similar occupation health and safety standards,

English language and all those

things make for a good fi.

We're going to encourage that.

We are getting record We are getting record numbers from Ireland at the moment from Ireland at the moment for

much the same reasons. much the same reasons. Their economy has been suffering, a large large number of

are looking for work. If you wander around Perth at wander around Perth at the

moment you run into a lot of

Irish accents but they're all

finding jobs quickly and

meeting skills quickly. That's

a good match. Much of those

Irish will go home when the a

Irish economy picks up and the

jobs dry up a bit in Australia.

The good ones who want to stay

can apply for permanent migration. How do they compare

in the US to Australia. Do you

know what the unemployment rate is these industries is in is these industries is in the

US? The overall unemployment

rate in the United States is

8.3% trending to wards 8.2% 8.3% trending to wards 8.2% and that has been - there is been a

steady decrease in unemployment

over the last 22 months and so

it is moving in a positive

direction. Nevertheless,

there's still terrifically well

skilled workers particularly in

the construction industry who

are looking for work in the

United States. It is a perfect

fit here. People speaking the

same language mostly. With same language mostly. With the same skills. Would it be higher

those industries? My guess is

there's probably a higher number in those industries in

the construction industry. Do

you have any xar is off wages

in those industries, either of

you? You're talking about you? You're talking about very specialised highly skilled work here, particularly the type of

plumbing, electrician and other

work that would be required

here for these large LNG facilities and others would be somewhat somewhat different from the

traditional housing market. You may be comparing some apples and oranges in terms of

what they've traditionally been

paid. They do know this work

and again, in order to be eligible to come out eligible to come out here, they

would be pre-assessed back in

the States by Australia to make

sure that they have the problem skills. (Inaudible) I suppose

the key point to make is that

workers coming to the resources

industry in Australia at the

moment will be among the best

paid workers in the world. The

reality is there's a strong

demand and, therefore, labour

is getting reword warded well.

I don't think attracting people

because of the wages will be an

issue for us. I think I

will be issues about people

wanting to travel this far

about work away from home. As

we know a lot of Australian we

workers don't want to do the

fly in, fly out conditions. workers

fly in, fly out conditions. That's a personal decision

people have to make. The people have to make. The wages and conditions will be attractive and I think these

workers will be attractive to

both American employees working

in Australia and to Australian employees because they've had

similar training, experience in heavy industrial situations,

occupational health and safety

training, common language, and,

as say, under this initiative, they will assessed in as

United States of America to

make sure they meet Australian

trade standards so people will

know when they bring somebody

across they can go straight

into a working

into a working environment. (Inaudible) agreement with the Irish government and the Federal

Government can support it. I'm

interested how this one is

dingo different and you're working with different countries. That's frankly not

true. That's factually wrong.

If you look at the figures for

Irish migration for Australia,

temporary skilled migration,

I'll let Mr Bowen take you

through that, but the through that, but the reality

is there's strong migration to

WA, strong encouragement from the Federal Government, and the WA, State Government wandering

around making up figures we need 150,000 figures to need 150,000 figures to people

all out of Ireland you can

agree to it is quite frankly a

nonsense. We're seeing strong

growth. The current system is

delivering. I'm straying into delivering.

Mr Bowen's area. I'll let Mr Bowen's area. I'll let him

deal with that. I felt tempted

to respond to nonsense.

You're right on the money. That suggestion is just

completely incorrect. Could I

just say something about Perth.

We do recognise very much the skills needs and labour

shortages in Perth. Hence Last

year we designated Perth as a

regional city for the year of the regional migration of the regional skilled

migration scheme. We have

worked very closely to ensure

with businesses in obviously with businesses in Perth

obviously a large bulk of our

growth in 457 visas goes to WA

as it does to Queensland. In

relation to the WA Government,

they are perfectly entitled do their job. If they want to go

to Ireland and suggest a

memorandum of understanding

with Ireland that's a matter

for them. If that falls down

because the Irish government

says no, and they haven't consulted with the Federal Government about that says that's a matter for them. That's

That's entirely a matter for

them. We have a very good relationship with the Irish

Government. I met with the

Irish ambassador and a visit pg Minister last week to Minister last week to discuss

those issues. I would note for

the first time since the 1970s

Ireland is our Top-10 source

countries for permanent migration

migration for Australia. That

shows the system is working. The WA Government needs to

check its facts and not make

allegations which aren't backed

up by the facts in skilled migration. Just on the degree

of difficulty working in the two countries, United two countries, United States

and Australia, do you think it is tougher to be a government leader as an Afro-American as a childless atheist in Australia?

I don't make those sort of

comparisons. It sounds the rock is as heavy as the

rope is long. I'll just leave it at that. Minister Bowen,

your colleague said your colleague said this

morning in response to Labor's

dire poll numbers that the

carbon tax broken promise by the Prime Minister had affected

Labor's sense of legitimacy and

mandate with the public and mandate with the public and if

it was just game as usual for

Labor, you wouldn't be in the

finals next year. Does he have

a point? Look, I'm simply

going to say obviously on that

comment is in ref tops to

polls, we have a challenge to

communicate. We'll be every

single Minister putting and

every member of Parliament I'm

sure will be putting every

ounce of energy to communicate that message. The challenge and decision facing the

Australian people in 18 Australian people in 18 months

time is a very real one with a very stark very stark difference of approach between us and the

alternative government. Do you

think that poll would be as if Kevin think that poll would be as bad

if Kevin Rudd had won leadership. That matter was

resolved in March. We're all

working to ensure the re-election of a Labor Government. On this announcement, why not throw

this opportunity open to all

other countries and are you

concerned at all this is going concerned

to be seen particularly in

Australia's region as

discriminatory? English is spoken quite widely spoken quite widely across the

world. Perhaps I could deal

with that. What these measures

do is trying to remove some

barriers, artificial barriers

to people recruiting US workers

with these particular skills.

The reality is we already have

in place these sorts of

arrangements in places like the

Philippines and India, and a

range of other countries. Effectively, those Effectively, those measures

were first implemented as were first implemented as a risk management technique when

employees were complaining that

perhaps we had people arriving

who didn't have the skills set

that was required. We put in

place these overseas assessments to make sure that

when an employer brought

someone in Australia, they were confident they had the confident they had the skills. Say with the UK market,

Australian employees have a pretty good understanding of

the skills set, the pretty et cetera, newer markets they didn't have the same

understanding. In understanding. In the United States we didn't have States we didn't have those

measures in place. We haven't

traditionally drawn a lot of tradespeople from the United

States. This mesh wrer is

allowing that facilitation. We

don't discriminate on the don't discriminate on the basis

of race. We do have language

standards because there's a very important occupational

health and safety measure tone

you understand you understand people understand communication.

These are heavy duty sites with large risks associated with

them. We've insisted on reasonable English standards.

We would workers from all over

the world working in these

industries. It is about removing a couple of barriers

to facilitation of temporary

trades labour from the United

States and as I say, currently

people when they seek to get a licence in Australia might arrive,

arrive, might not be successful

in getting licence and they

would be disappointed and

wasted investment or secondly

might have to wait month force

that licence to come through.

This allows a facilitation, This allows a facilitation, but

the immigration system remains

totally non-discrim tree as it

has been for many years. Will any

any priority be given to appropriately skilled US

applicants from people from other

other countries with other countries with equivalent skills? This is the skills? This is effectively the decision for the employer. 94 57 system which we

anticipate to be the major source

source of this temporary labour has

has a requirement for employees

to nominate those persons. The

employees search the world for

the appropriate skills and they

make the decisions about where they

they bring those workers from.

This allows us to remove a

barrier to them recruiting

United States labour, it is

something that US companies

have supported, and some Australian companies have

supported, because they think supported, there's a pool of workers there they could use. Equally, those

companies can bring companies can bring workers from Britain, India, China,

wherever they choose to sponsor those workers from, those workers from, provided

they meet Minister they meet Minister Bowen's requirements and they've requirements and they've got the trades qualifications. Does these have a time limit?

Sorry. Karen and back to Sorry. Karen and back to the

west. In relation to 457ment, yes, yes, they're time limited.

This varies from employer to

employer. The department will approve up to four years. You

say the market will drive it,

but how many people, hundreds,

thousands, tens? 94 57 program

is responsive to demand. The

limit is not set by me sitting

in my office in Canberra, it in my office in Canberra, it is set by the economy. We

currently have around 80,000 457 workers in Australia across the board from around the world. Obviously the numbers

that come out of this program

will depend on the interest of

Australian employees and the

skills set available and the interests in interests in the United States. Can I ask the

ambassador what he would say to

Americans thinking and work in

the north-west of WA, it is

hot, unpleasant. It is a long

way from the US. How would you

sell it. He's very hard on the

west. I've been out to Karratha 14 Times Now and I've

been out in the Pilbara, out to

WA, and it is beautiful country

out there. We have a lot of

American workers already there.

I think the physical amenities

are terrific and beautiful,

ocean, plenty of land, ocean, plenty of land, and really wonderful people to work

with. I don't think this will

be a tough sell in that sense.

I think people who are looking

to settle in Perth, one of the

challenges will be housing and

we're trying to work with

companies that there's access to that. These are high-class

problems to have. It is a

wonderful place to work and I think Americans will be excited

about the opportunity to pursue

careers for some temporary

period of time out here in Australia. Minister Australia. Minister Bowen, any comment

comment on the latest boat

arrival? Yes. We have had arrival? Yes. We have had a

boat arrival, this is the 13th

boat arriving since the Opposition indicated it would not support the legislation to

allow for offshore processing

and the government of the day

to be able to implement its

policies. Very clearly, it is important that the

policies.

of the day be able to implement

its policies to have a

deterrent for the dangerous

boat journey to Australia. boat journey to Australia. The Opposition wants to have it

both ways. They want to stop

the government being able to

have that deterrent in place

and then they want to and then they want to complain

the boats continue to arrive. have

Mr Abbott can't have it both

ways. Either he supports offshore processing or does

not. If he supports it, he

should vote for it. Do you agree that Julia Gillard does

have a tough job to do as an

unmarried actist female Prime

Minister? I think that was Minister? I think that was a

comment made in jest. I Minister?

Julia Gillard has a tough Julia Gillard has a tough job,

but the tough job is but the tough job is managing the economy, managing the

growth in the Australian

economy while there's structural adjustment occurring and ensuring we Australians the best and ensuring we give

opportunities in terms of education and health and

employment. I think that's

what she's focused on. A

little light humour I think was

used to compare her challenges with those with those of President

Obama. Thanks for clearing it up. Gina Rinehart, up. Gina Rinehart, what

discussions have you had with

her or her company with regards

on to bringing out workers to help

on some of her projects and

what her demands have been and

what your response has been? I'll answer that question in I'll

the general. Of course I've

agreements would be the main announced enterprise migration

mechanism for ensuring that the

very large regional projects can capital spendier of more than two billion and 1500 employees at peak have the tune employees

to attract the necessary skilled labour. They will

apply across the board for apply across the board

those very large projects. I'm

not going to get into which

projects are at which stage of

negotiation and the details those discussions when we negotiation and the details of

those discussions when we have

signed one I'll announce T We're going to leave that

there for the moment. The call

has come out for Americans to

come down under and work in the

resources boom. They were live

from Parliament House in

Canberra. They're going to be

making it easier for American workers to work here in

engineering area, resources Australia in the civil

industries, US plumbers and

electricians skills willing

recognised here. Chris Evans

was recognising this is a

temporary measure to meet the

skills shortages over the

coming areas. It will help employment employment