Labor move to cancel foreign visas ‘will cause crisis’ in offshore gas

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Labor is being warned that a plan it will bring to parliament today to cancel the visas of foreign workers in the oil and gas industry could shut down critical parts of the sector, cost hundreds of millions of dollars and inflict substantial “reputational damage” on the country.

Labor senator Kim Carr told The Australian yesterday he intend­ed to proceed today with a dis­allowance motion which, if successful, would prevent installations such as oil and drilling rigs from continuing to use highly skilled 457 or 400 visa workers.

“We’ll proceed with the dis­allowance motion because there’s been far too many abuses of the 457 regime,” Senator Carr said.

The push comes as the Maritime Union of Australia pursues a High Court challenge against the implementation of the government’s visa arrangements in the offshore oil and gas sector, including a ministerial exemption of vessels from Australia’s mig­ration zone.

The offshore oil and gas sector has in excess of $200 billion worth of major projects either under construction or in operation. Industry­ is deeply concerned that Senator Carr’s disallowance motio­n will create costly delays in extraction, exploration and construction activities.

The move to clear out foreign workers from the sector follows the fierce campaign by Labor and unions last year against the labour provisions in the landmark China free-trade deal, including the lifting of labour-market testing provis­ions and removal of a mandatory skills assessment.

The head of the Australian Mines and Metals Association, Steve Knott, has written to oppos­ition immigration spokesman Richard Marles to warn him that the disallowance motion would trigger an “imminent crisis” if it gained the support of the Senate.

In the letter, obtained by The Australian, Mr Knott says dis­allowing the use of senior foreign personnel will lead to delays, inflic­t major reputational damage on Australia, force domestic drill crews to be stood down and encourage rigs to leave the country.

“Every one of the six or seven offshore drills rigs that are currently­ operating off the coast of Australia would have several international expats on board under 400 or 457 visas,’’ he writes.

“These are key senior people who travel around the world with the rig.

“The cost of running each rig is in the realm of $1 million a day.

“If those senior personnel are not able to work because the regul­ation has been disallowed, the junior Australian drill crew cannot work either and they would have to be stood down.

“It would be impossible to get an Australian worker to work those rigs and the rigs would have to leave Australia.”

In the letter, copied to Bill Shorten, Mr Knott also touches on a procedural issue in the parliament that he argues heightens the urgency of the situation and the potential damage.

He warns that by disallowing the Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Regul­ation of 2015, the key parlia­ment­ary instrument which spec­ifies appropriate visas for foreign wor­k­ers, parliament would effect­ively be washing its hands of the issue.

This is because a regulation disallowed by parliament can only be resubmitted after a period of six months, with Mr Knott arguing the “government’s hands will be tied” and leave “no scope to provide work rights and … certainty.”

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton weighed into the debate, telling The Australian that Labor’s move to disallow the regulation was “completely irresponsible.”

Article Via: theaustralian

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