Subject: West Australian Chamber Welcomes East Timor's Offers Of Workers

The West Australian

January 17, 2007

Timor offers thousands of workers


CANBERRA -- Thousands of East Timorese workers could be sent to Australia under a proposal by the countrys president, Jose Ramos Horta, which business groups say could help ease the crippling skills crisis.

Dr Ramos Horta plans to approach Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with his idea, after unsuccessfully lobbying the previous Howard government.

He said the plan would help both countries, with just one in seven people in East Timors 300,000-strong labour force having a regular income while Australia was crying out for workers. "So I would plead with Australia to let in a few hundred Timorese, a few thousand, for lets say up to nine months of the year," Dr Ramos Horta said.

The International Labour Organisation estimates that 215,000 people will enter East Timors labour market by 2020, putting immense pressure on the countrys young economy.

WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist John Nicolau urged the Government to take the proposal seriously.

"One of our key recommendations in our study into human capital was the need to look at immigration, both permanent and temporary, and looking at ways to increase it to facilitate the increased labour force, and this is one such measure that really should be considered seriously," he said.

The chamber also supported widening the 457 temporary skilled migrant visa to allow more migrants.

"Not surprisingly its the unskilled occupations that are the highest in need along with a lot of the skilled professions. Overall, all jobs have an element of skill and its about broadening those jobs that can qualify (under the 457)."

UnionsWA secretary Dave Robinson said the Governments first priority was to make sure Australian workers were given every opportunity to gain employment.

Beyond that, he would welcome East Timorese migrants, but only if they came to Australia permanently. "They are welcome here as citizens and not on the basis of sole temporary migration just to work, but to incorporate into our community. This would benefit the whole community, rather then bringing them in for short-term labour fixes that dont do anybody any good."

"I believe we have some responsibility for whats happened in East Timor and should help sort out the huge level of unemployment and train up East Timorese."

The WA CCI says WA will need 400,000 more workers in the next decade to sustain economic growth.

The Federal Government is considering changing 457 laws after WA asked for more skilled migrants to be directed to the boom State.

WA Treasurer Eric Ripper said he would not oppose the plan.

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