Date: May 30 2012
THE heated political debate has been full of opinions about the Enterprise Migration Agreement between the government and Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill project, but few facts.
There is a reason for that. The controversial agreement is not a public document, will not be, and has not even been signed.
EMAs are confidential ''deeds of agreement'' available to proponents of big projects with a value of $2 billion or more, and which intend to have a peak workforce of at least 1500 workers.
They are a kind of up-front ''job lot'' guarantee that a certain number of workers will be granted temporary 457 visas. The agreement is signed with the project proponent, with the contractors who will actually employ the overseas workers signing later template deals.
Although the deed itself is not public, the government has revealed some facts on this one.
The $9.5 billion Roy Hill mine has a projected peak workforce of 8400, and the deed provides that up to 1715 of them - about 20 per cent - can be foreign 457 visa workers during the three-year construction phase.
In recognition of a looming shortfall of construction workers, EMAs can allow 457 visas to be granted to ''semi-skilled'' occupations on top of the skilled jobs that would normally qualify.
The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said on Friday the Roy Hill agreement would cover occupations like electricians, mechanical fitters, scaffolders and boilermakers. But the breakdown of skilled and semi-skilled workers will not be made public.
The deed says Roy Hill and its contractors have to make efforts to employ Australians first - including through an online jobs noticeboard, and that it must provide ''2000 training places for Australians'' of which 200 will be apprenticeships and traineeships. The other 1800 are ''upskilling programs for Australian construction workers''. Two-thirds of the apprenticeships must go to older workers and Bowen said Roy Hill had a total training budget of $20 million.
The agreement also specifies the overseas workers must have the same terms, conditions and living conditions as Australian workers, and Bowen has said in this case there will be a multilingual ''induction video'' so workers definitely know their ''rights and obligations''.
It is not clear where the workers will come from, whether they will be fly-in, fly-out and where they would fly to in their off weeks.
The Immigration Department is also very explicit about what it will not tell us. ''The department will not disclose the number or occupations of workers that are available under a particular EMA. The department will also not disclose those companies that are signatories to subordinate labour agreements.''
The new ''spreading the benefits of the resources boom'' caucus subcommittee says it will provide more scrutiny. But the confidential nature of the agreements could make this difficult.
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