Friday, 24th of July 2015


Issue #2 July



China Australia Free trade Agreement


China - Australia Free Trade Agreement


Australia's aging population signals need for skilled care aids


Overseas engineer qualifications to be scrutinised


Top union official calls for votes for foreign workers in Australia


Australia marks 70th anniversary of Department of Immigration


China - Australia Free Trade Agreement

With China being Australia’s largest trading partner, the FTA will foster freer trade flows and create stronger ties with our trading partners. This FTA won't just eliminate tariffs, they also address behind the border barriers that impede the flow of goods and services between parties, encourage investment, enhance cooperation, and can address other issues such as intellectual property, e-commerce and government procurement.

This agreement can increase Australia’s productivity and contribute to higher GDP growth by allowing domestic businesses access to cheaper inputs, introducing new technologies, and fostering competitions and innovation. It promotes regional economic integration and build shared approaches to trade and investment, broader acceptance of product standards.

FTA can enhance the competitiveness of Australian exports in the partner market, and add to the attractiveness of Australia as an investment destination. FTA can deliver enhanced trading opportunities that contribute to the sustainable economic growth of less – developed economies. They can continue to provide benefits to parties as the agreements are implemented, including through phase-ins and in-built agendas that encourage ongoing domestic reform and trade liberalisation.

As part of the agreement, the two countries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with regards to the employment of workers from China.

There is no requirement under the MOU for labour market testing. That means that the company will not need to prove that they are unable to source Australians to work on the projects. There is no requirement to prove that there is a skill shortage or that the company has difficulties in recruiting Australian workers.

The MOU allows for Chinese workers to be brought into Australia to work on the project as long as the project is related to infrastructure development within the food and agribusiness, resources and energy, transport, telecommunications, power supply and generation, environment and tourism sectors. The MOU allows for "concessions" to be made with regards to the required standards for the Consolidated Skilled Occupation List (CSOL), English language ability and the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) that is set at $53,900.

This means that the company can negotiate with the Department of Immigration via a private contract to import Chinese workers to work on a project in lower skilled occupations. This also means that ChAFTA has the potential for Chinese workers to be permitted into Australia with lower English levels and lower skills than the regular work visas.

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Australia's aging population signals need for skilled care aids

skilled age care workers in Australia

More skilled workers from overseas are needed for Australia’s caring sector, especially carers for the aged, due to workforce shortages, it is claimed.

The Department of Social Services has told the Productivity Commission, which is currently reviewing the benefits and cost of migration including visa fees, that an aging population and projected shortage of unpaid carers means a change is needed in migration policy.

It suggests that ‘alternative models for determining migration intakes could provide opportunities to increase/complement the existing aged and disability care workforce shortages and augment labour shortages in the healthcare system'.

Under the current migration arrangements, aged care providers can sponsor and employ registered nurses from overseas, but are precluded from sponsoring personal care workers due to requirements around qualifications and minimum salary.

In its submission the department says that Australia’s migration programme has been fundamental to the country’s social and economic development and has contributed positively to the economic and social wellbeing of all Australians.

Organisations working in the aged care sector backed the submission and said that a government plan in the area is exactly what’s needed. John Kelly, chief executive officer of Aged and Community Services Australia, said that with 1,000 people turning 85 and 2,000 turning 65 each week, the aged services workforce was in need of strategic government planning and policy.

Indeed, government figures showed the sector would need another 25,000 full time equivalent workers in residential care and 17,000 in home care. Kelly pointed out that even with the most creative recruitment programs, the aged care workforce shortfall would not be addressed.

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Overseas engineer qualifications to be scrutinised

scrutinise engineering qualifiactions

Engineers from around the world looking to work in Australia could find getting a job a little tougher and have their qualifications scrutinised more thoroughly due to the launch of an industry national registration scheme.

Engineers Australia, which represents 100,000 engineers and is the national body for the profession said it has launched the scheme in direct response to the number of engineers arriving from overseas.

It says it needs to safeguard the industry from an influx of overseas workers arriving on temporary 457 visas and to make sure those getting jobs have the best possible qualifications.

The National Engineering Register (NER) aims to check the qualifications of engineers, experience and monitor their commitment to professional development.

Engineers Australia chief executive Stephen Durkin said the need for the scheme stemmed from the number of overseas engineers coming to Australia to fill job gaps despite the fact that there is a shortage of engineers.

Durkin said he supported skilled migration, saying most of Australia’s engineers were overseas born, but the profession needed to monitor the number of people coming in on temporary 457 visas.

'Up until a couple of years ago the number of 457 visas went from 2,000 to about 7,000. We can’t register the term engineering because it’s a generic term. But we can create a register that the public can access to see if an engineer is a qualified, practising and ethical engineer,' he explained.

He added that the register will also be linked with professional standards councils in different states and territories which are independent statutory bodies, recognised by law.

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Top union official calls for votes for foreign workers in Australia

right to vote for foreigner workers in Australia

One of the most powerful union leaders in Australia has called for temporary foreign workers to be given the right to vote in both federal and state elections.

Tony Sheldon, who is national vice president of the Australian Labour Party and national secretary of the Transport Workers Unions, believes that people from overseas who pay tax in the country should be able to vote.

They deserve the same rights as other Australians regardless of how long they intend to be in Australia. 'Only by giving migrant workers full democratic representation will their voices be heard because politicians and the business elite will have to listen to their demands,' he said.

He also believed that foreign workers often pay more into the system than Australian citizens. For example, they pay for health insurance and often for their children’s education in state schools.

He would like to see these kind of costs, especially education, taken care of by employers. 'Often this cost is borne by the workers themselves, effectively amounting to an additional tax,' he pointed out.

'If employers want to bring migrant workers into Australia then they must be held responsible for ensuring they can share in the Australian way of life. This is a nation built on egalitarian values where workers are equal - this right must extend to all workers,' he added.

He also backs the idea of a tougher regime for employers such as a licence or public register that would create an extra layer of checks to ensure that they abided by federal workplace laws.

The TWU also wants foreign workers to be given mandatory access to union representation upon arrival in Australia so that they know their legal rights and, if desired, how to negotiate improved wages and conditions.

'We need to get serious about protecting the rights of temporary foreign workers, because we should be fighting for this basic principle,' he said, adding that there should also be additional legal protections for overseas workers who lose their jobs in Australia.

Currently, temporary visa holders have 90 days to find another job if their employment ends and Sheldon said this makes them vulnerable to exploitation. 'Only by protecting foreign workers do we protect everyone’s rights to a job with dignity. If we fail to do this our kids, our neighbours and our communities are doomed to have their lives also degraded by substandard work,' he added.


Australia marks 70th anniversary of Department of Immigration

70 years of Australian Immigration Department

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) in Australia is celebrating its 70th anniversary, with the publication of a history of its challenges and aims since 1945.

It was initially just called the Department of Immigration when it was established by Ben Chifley, Australia's 16th Prime Minister in July 1945, at a time when Australia had a population of just seven million people and was emerging from World War II.

The new Minister for Immigration, Arthur Calwell, promoted the concept 'populate or perish' and took over all the functions of the immigration branch of the Department of the Interior.

With many immigration branch personnel still on active service, the Department began with just 24 officers, six in Canberra, six in Melbourne and 12 in London.

'If Australians have learned one lesson from the Pacific War, it is surely that we cannot continue to hold our island continent for ourselves and our dependants, unless we greatly increase our numbers,' Calwell said in his first ministerial statement to the Federal Parliament in August 1945.

Since then the Department has facilitated the permanent entry of more than seven million people from around the globe to form one of the world's most linguistically, culturally and religiously diverse nations.

'Australia came out of World War II with the belief that we needed to increase our population to avoid the threat of invasion. Over the coming years, thousands of mostly European migrants would come to our shores, bringing with them a variety of languages, cuisine and culture and signalling the start of the diverse nation we live in today,' said DIBP Secretary, Michael Pezzullo.

He explained that since then, the Department has played a significant role in continuing to build the nation through managed migration, and citizenship. 'Our Department has managed the permanent migration of more than seven million people, including over 800 000 refugees,' he said.

'In addition, we have facilitated a significant contribution to the Australian economy through our temporary entrant and student visa programmes,' he added.


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