THE Department of Immigration’s latest annual report shows a decline in 457 visa usage in the mining industry, discrediting new union claims that temporary skilled migration is costing Australians resource jobs.

According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s (formerly the Department of Immigration and Citizenship) Annual Report 2012-13, the mining industry reduced its intake of 457 visa holders by more than 1,800 in the period.

The figures reveal the resource industry comprised just 6.8% of all approved 457 visa applications during 2012/13, down from 9.5% in the prior year.

Overall, the number of approvals for primary 457 visa holders in Australia increased by only 170 or 1% on the previous year. The increases were attributed to the retail, hospitality and agriculture industries.

The construction industry, while still one of the larger users of the 457 program, also declined its proportionate use of temporary skilled migrants in the period with approved applications dropping from 13.4% of the total in 2011/12 to 11.5% in 2012/13.

The figures provide a timely reminder rebuttal of a new CFMEU anti-foreign worker campaign, launched within days of the release of the department’s report.

The union, which primarily derives its membership from the construction and mining industries, is pressuring new Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to take the previous Labor government’s last-minute amendments to the Migration Act a step further.

Central to the union’s argument is that local Australian workers are losing out on positions to skilled migrant workers, claims strongly refuted by industry and academic sources.

“Despite ongoing union rhetoric, the official figures continue to show Australia’s resource industry is a small user of skilled migrants. Around 97% of the national industry’s workforce are local workers and this has been consistent over the past five years,” says AMMA chief executive Steve Knott.

“The industry goes to extreme lengths to employ locals first, but we still have some areas number of skills shortages in key areas and when we do need skilled migrant labour, it is often vital to safety, maintenance and project delivery.”

In a state-by-state breakdown, both of Australia’s resource hubs experienced declines in 457 visa recruitment.

“Western Australia (down 10.0 per cent) and Queensland (down 3.2 per cent) both fell in 2012–13, in line with the slowing of the mining industry,” the report said.

“New South Wales and Victoria between them continued to account for more than half of all primary visas granted.”
The report covers the financial year before Labor’s 457 visa amendments, which included Labour Market Testing measures, came into effect.

For a full copy of the Department’s annual report, click here.