No to Rinehart’s visa rorts, yes to youth training and full workplace rights

May 30, 2012

Who really runs this country? The announcement by the federal government that it has struck its first Enterprise Migration Agreement with the world's richest woman Gina Rinehart reveals just how eager our governments are to serve the mining millionaires.

Youth unemployment in Kwinana, in suburban Perth, is at 26.4%. So why the skills shortage?

Governments have stripped training schemes, removed apprentice ratios from awards, kept trainee wages pitifully low, not made apprenticeships a condition of government contracts and privatised institutions like Telstra and the railway workshops that used to provide tradespeople for the whole economy.

The two big stevedoring companies in Fremantle haven't put on a single apprentice for more than two decades.

The big multinationals all want skilled workers, but none want to pay for it. Their solution? Poach them from small business or bring in “guest workers”.

GREEN LEFT TV: 457 visas and migration

These workers are over a barrel because they depend on the employer for their visa. There are plenty of examples of some being subject to terrible exploitation.

Of course, even if we make big business pay its way, restore apprentice ratios and match the people with the jobs, the massive expansion in both the mining and offshore oil and gas industries will still need workers from both interstate and overseas.

Let's welcome them, Australia was built by migrants. But there should be no category of second-class worker who can be thrown out when the boss doesn't want them any more.

The migrants who made Australia home after the World War II were given permanent residency with full citizenship rights. They became a vital part of our society. That's how it should be today.

As long as a “guest worker” system exists, bosses will use it to push down everyone's conditions. Gillard must scrap it.

Meanwhile Allseas, a contractor to Chevron on the Gorgon gas project, is bringing in workers on tourist visas and employing them on Third World wages.

Allseas contends that in waters excised from the migration zone in 2001, Australian labour law does not apply to vessels servicing the offshore oil and gas industry. On May 18 the Federal Court agreed.

So under international law the resources belong to Australia, yet Australian labour law does not apply. It’s heaven for the mining bosses.

The Maritime Union of Australia is fighting this tooth and nail. If generalized, it would wipe out the Australian seafarer.

Former prime minister John Howard's anti-refugee hysteria — his “weapon of mass distraction” — is being used to directly attack our seafarers' existence. The federal government must be made to tear up this poisonous legacy too.

In 2010, the mining companies boasted about rolling Kevin Rudd and the Resource Super Profit Tax. The watered down Mineral and Petroleum Resource Rent Tax may generate even less revenue in a downturn .

It's all a far cry from Norway whose state-owned oil company takes a 50% stake in every project and then imposes a 90% tax on the profits of the private partner, or Venezuela and Bolivia, which have nationalised their oil and gas industries outright.

Thanks to WA Premier Colin Barnett's cutbacks, the Disability Services Commission is planning to abolish the positions of 34 Community Social Trainers who help adults with disabilities perform daily tasks.

Many are already missing out on this so-called boom, and we're going backwards. It really is time to share the wealth. It's our wealth, not Gina's. That's not the “politics of envy”, it's the politics of social justice.

[Sam Wainwright is a Fremantle City Councillor, former wharfie and MUA member, disability support worker and convener of the Walyalup-Fremantle branch of Socialist Alliance]

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