Australian mining industry continues to push for more immigration

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Australia's mining industry is pushing for more immigration as unemployment rates fall across the country. They state that more skilled immigration is crucial to support the planned $140 billion in mining-related projects located mostly in northern Australia.

Sam Walsh, Rio Tinto iron ore executive director, told The Australian that the industry has to be careful not to create a situation where tradespeople across many occupations all head north at once to fill labour shortages.

"As we move forward with $140bn of projects, there will be shortages in specific areas and there will be an overheating of the labour market -- neither of those are good for improving Australia's terms of trade or improving the basic economics of employment in this country," Walsh said.

Walsh believes the 457 temporary work visa needs to be made more flexible.

"I'm not talking about a guest worker program -- I'm talking about 457s providing more flexibility, providing a longer period," he said.

"If you really want somebody to uproot themselves and come and live in a remote part of Australia, three years doesn't quite meet muster," he added.

Moreover, Australia will implement changes to its points based immigration system in the summer of 2011 which will make it more difficult for tradespeople to immigrate to Australia.

The changes are meant to favor more highly skilled occupations, such as researchers and scientists. The changes to the system will particularly hurt the mining industry, which depends heavily on people in trades occupations.

John Grill, chief executive of engineering firm WorleyParsons, said that not enough people are working in trades related jobs in Australia.

"Part of the issue is we haven't had enough people going into the trades for 20 years, and there hasn't been a lot going on in Australia for 20 years in terms of construction work," said Grill.

"There's been a reasonable amount of it in recent times and it's projected that there will be a lot of it going forward," he added.