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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 2 Hansard (8 March) . . Page.. 427..

MR GENTLEMAN (continuing):

the focus of which is on attracting interstate skilled workers to the region through the selling of Canberra's many wonderful features.

The campaign builds on the existing and comprehensive skilled and business migration program, which focuses on attracting skilled workers and businesses from overseas to Canberra. The program produces visa sponsorships for skilled migrants and assists employers with visa sponsorships. To date, 185 applications have been received, for which 154 have been for skilled migration and 31 for business migration. In total, 141 skilled applications have been approved and five were rejected on the grounds that they did not meet the selection criteria. Twenty-seven business sponsorships have been approved since July 2005 and 18 of these clients have had their permanent visa granted by DIMIA and are making arrangements to move to Canberra and commence business activity.

Clearly, the ACT government recognises the value of skilled migrant working visas and business migration for Canberra business. We recognise that business migration means the migration of new ideas and techniques for Canberra that businesses can capitalise on as well. We recognise that arrangements such as those entered into by businesses and skilled migrant workers can be beneficial for such workers as they are given the opportunity to earn, learn and travel.

Let me state that such strategies provide a short-term solution to a long-term problem, but they are solutions nonetheless and the ACT government should be applauded for its attempts to assist Canberra businesses in what is a great challenge. However, we must ensure that such strategies do not come at a price, particularly the reduction of workers' rights and entitlements.

Filling the gap created by the federal government-produced skills shortage should not create a second class of workers. To be honest, we have WorkChoices to do that and we do not need the exploitation of skilled migrant workers to add to that. Let's not forget that skilled migrant working visas have become a business sector in themselves and, when there is money to be made, there is someone who wants to make more money.

Last year, a Canberra businessman established a business to assist employers with recruiting overseas workers. He was going to make some money off the chronic skills shortage. For the small fee of $6,000, you could import for yourself a ready-made qualified cook, a real bargain with a couple of strings attached. String No 1: you, the employer, must pay no less than that provided under the relevant award or legislation. String No 2: you, the employer, must provide working conditions no less than those provided by the relevant award or legislation. String No 3: you, the employer, must provide a safe working environment.

But who has ever let a couple of strings get in the way of a good bargain? From September last year, some of Canberra's most famous eateries engaged the services of this entrepreneur, paid their $6,000 and employed a number of skilled workers from the Philippines. These skilled workers, with experience in international-standard hotels and in world-class restaurants, came to Canberra to earn a decent wage, enough to live comfortably in Australia and return money to their families back home.

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