Napthine Under Fire Over 457 Visas For East West Link Workers

The Napthine government has come under fire after one of the companies building the East West Link hired an immigration adviser to lodge 457 visas.

The Age, by Henrietta Cook, 8 October 2014

Before contracts for the $6.8 billion project were signed, Spanish construction company Acciona advertised for an immigration adviser to "collect required documentation and lodg(e) all 457 applications".

ACTU President Ged Kearney said it was "outrageous" for temporary workers to be brought in from overseas when unemployment was around 6.8 per cent in Victoria. 

"It is extraordinary that just a day after Premier [Denis] Napthine promised thousands of new jobs for Victorians that the first job we've seen advertised is one to co-ordinate foreign workers."

Dr Napthine said on Tuesday that while the majority of jobs on the project would be local, some workers who had "specific expertise" on tunnel boring machines may need to come from overseas. This would require 457 visas.

"We expect we will get most, if not all of the skills through local content and that's certainly the objective of the government."

Planning Minister Matthew Guy told ABC radio this morning that Acciona advertised for the 457 co-ordinator to deal with "busy periods".

"Acciona have a range of businesses."

Dr Napthine said local content requirments in the contract for the East West Link were quite high. He said there was no tunnel boring machine in Australia that was big enough to do the job.

"I am unaware whether there is sufficient local expertise to man and operate that tunnel boring machine," Dr Napthine said.

"I would imagine that every possible job that can be delivered by local people will be delivered by local people. We want to maximise local employment - that is the advice we have given to the East West Connect consortium, they will be seeking to maximise local employment. The local content includes employment."

Shadow Attorney-General Martin Pakula said companies looked for overseas labour because skills training had been destroyed in Victoria. 

"I think the government's claim about the thousands of jobs that will be made available to Victorians has been totally undermined by the revelation that one of the consotrium partners is trying to bring workers in from overseas."

Federal Greens MP for Melbourne Adam Bandt called on the government to release the East West Link contracts so the public could see whether the contractors were legally obliged to employ local labour.

"The East-West tollway looks set to deliver taxpayer funds to multinational companies who will avoid giving jobs to local workers," he said.

East West Connect project director Michael Kalinowski said the vast majority of employees were expected to be local firms with the number of workers on a 457 visa anticipated to be no more than 35. 

"Indeed we have already found a high level of interest from well-qualified people to work on the project," he said. 

"Due to the highly specialised nature of some roles, for instance those connected to the TBM [tunnel boring machine], we expect to draw on some overseas personnel to deliver the best outcomes for the project."

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