FRUSTRATED: Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne, Senator Murray Watt and Keppel MP Brittany Luaga listen to the frustrations of the local people about 457 visa workers.
FRUSTRATED: Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne, Senator Murray Watt and Keppel MP Brittany Luaga listen to the frustrations of the local people about 457 visa workers. Chris Ison ROK171116cvisas2

Locals lay 457 visa worker concerns on the table

"IT'S not fair” and "457 workers are taking our jobs” could be heard from local residents who attended the roundtable meeting today at the Trades Hall in Rockhampton.

Surrounded by Senator for Queensland Murray Watt, Member for Rockhampton Bill Byrne and Keppel MP Brittany Lauga, the table discussed the recent announcement made by Labor's Bill Shorten that the Australian Labor Party was going to tighten the belt on 457 visa workers.

Organiser of the Australian Manufacturing Union in Central Queensland Peter Lyon said he supported the move and that it should have been done a long time ago.

Australian Manufacturing Union's Peter Lyon.
Australian Manufacturing Union's Peter Lyon. Madeline McDonald

"We firmly believe that we should buy Australian and employ Australians,” he said.

"Don't get me wrong, we welcome people into the country and when there's genuine skill shortage we accept 457 workers but when there's not, like there is at the moment, well Australian's should be at the top of the list. It's frustrating to see the locals miss out on local jobs but it's even more frustrating to see the youth of our region not getting trained and given apprenticeships because companies aren't offering apprenticeships now because it's cheaper for them to bring someone in from overseas and to be honest a lot of them are being exploited, some of the cases I've seen with the wages and work conditions, it's terrible.

"It's important to understand that more money that stays in Rockhampton gets spent in the local shops, service stations, houses and schools so why wouldn't we want to give these jobs to local people.”

In yesterday's Morning Bulletin 457 visa numbers were broken down into each industry showing the health care and social assistance industry had the highest percentage of 457 visa workers in Central Queensland, followed closely by the manufacturing industry.

But according to Labor's Senator Watt, the most common industry he receives complaints about from the Rockhampton region is the meatworks.

"Unfortunately, despite the fact that unemployment in this region is above the national average and youth unemployment is even higher, right now in the Fitzroy region there are currently 665 overseas workers here on 457 visas,” Senator Watt said.

"Now there's no doubt that many of them are needed to fill genuine skill shortage but we're getting increasing reports of many of those workers being brought here to fill jobs that could be filled by local people. In Rockhampton I've received a lot of complaints about the meatworks and increasing reliance on overseas workers there and one of the other problems that comes with that is that unfortunately these overseas workers get brought in on much lower wages and conditions than what local people would be paid. We're seeing increasing instances where firms are laying off local people and replacing them on labour hire or people brought in from overseas.

"The problem at the moment is that the laws presided over by the Turnbull Government don't really put too much difficultly in the way of employers who want to bring people in from overseas, all you have to do is advertise once over a 12 month period, if you can demonstrate that you couldn't get someone locally then you're allowed to bring someone from overseas in but Labor doesn't think that's strong enough and we think it's important that local employers make every effort to find local people and invest in training local young people for those jobs.

"So Labor wants to tighten the net on that, we're going to change the laws so that you have to have advertised for a minimum of four weeks before you bring someone in from overseas, you have to have done that advertising sometime over the last four months and for companies that do reply on a lot of overseas workers we're going to make it a requirement that they put in place a training plan to make sure they're spending a bit of money to train up local people. So if they bring in a 457 worker, they also put on a local apprentice, and we think that's a good balanced approach.

"We recognise that there's always going to be a place in the workforce to be brought in from overseas but it's one thing to bring someone in for two or three years from overseas but what's going to make sure we have people here in 10 years, 20 years, with the skills that we need that's going to require investing in apprenticeships and that's what this policy is about.”

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