Bill Shorten will today back Mark McGowan’s plan to have Perth removed from a skilled migration program used to bring overseas workers to WA in acknowledgement of the State’s ailing job market.
Using his first foray to Perth for the State election campaign to push his “Australians first” jobs message, Mr Shorten will pledge to support Perth’s exclusion from the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme.
The Federal Labor leader, who is due to visit local manufacturing businesses with his State counterpart, said the fact there were almost 100,000 unemployed West Australians was a “stain” on the Barnett Government’s record.
“It’s a no-brainer,” Mr Shorten told The West Australian.
“When we are bringing in cooks, builders and hairdressers from overseas rather than skilling and training local young people, that’s just wrong.
“We need the current settings to reflect the reality that tens of thousands of West Australians are now out of work.”
The scheme, which can be used to “fast-track” overseas workers to WA to work in occupations deemed to have supply shortages, already excludes Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Newcastle and Wollongong.
Perth is classified as “regional”, but with the State’s unemployment rate potentially heading for 7 per cent, WA Labor wants the State’s capital withdrawn from the program.
Mr Shorten said WA’s changing economy meant it was time to tighten temporary work programs.
“Perth’s inclusion in the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme reflected the huge demand for workers during the peak of the mining boom,” he said. “Those times have passed and it’s time it changed.”
There are about 160 occupations on the list of jobs that can be filled by overseas workers, which is produced by the State Government but overseen by the Commonwealth.
They range from blue-collar jobs such as bricklayers, fitters and electricians to white-collar professions such as engineering and teaching.
Mr McGowan has also vowed to tear up the list on his first day if elected premier on March 11, but Mr Shorten is yet to follow suit on the proposal.
Announcing the policies last month, Mr McGowan said Perth’s inclusion in the scheme was making the downturn worse.
But Premier Colin Barnett said the proposal to overhaul the list would deprive regional areas in particular of specialists such as doctors.
Mr Barnett also argued that the number of people brought to WA under the program was typically only about 1000 a year and Mr McGowan was turning his back on people who often became valuable citizens.