Infrastructure sector demands visa slaves

Last month I warned that the Morrison Government’s new Agricultural Visa would usher an “immigration scab grab”, with other sectors of the Australian economy likely to step up and demand similar access to industry-specific visas under the guise of ‘skills shortages’:

You could easily imagine a situation where the Morrison Government introduces a new ‘Serving Australia’ hospitality visa, a new ‘Building Australia’ construction and engineering visa, a new ‘Caring Australia’ health and aged care visa, or any other industry manifestation.

After all, the parliamentary migration committee this month recommended a pathway to permanent residency for all ­migrant workers who come to Australia on temporary skill visas.

So brace yourself for a flood of industry migration deals. The great immigration scab grab has begun.

Right on cue, Inland Rail interim CEO Rebecca Pickering claims that the rail construction sector is facing a shortage of 150,000 workers at a time when expenditure on rail projects is already 50% above 2019 levels and tipped to be 200% above by 2023.

Accordingly, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia CEO Adrian Dwyer has urged the federal government to introduce a specific visa for the infrastructure sector:

“It’s a huge sort of mountain that … the industry’s got to climb to cater for that, and certainly what that seems to translate to is quite a substantial skills gap,” Ms Pickering said…

IPA chief executive Adrian Dwyer said the skills challenge was intensifying as a result of the closure of international borders and an ageing workforce. “Unless these skills shortages are addressed, we’ll see substantial delays in project delivery, with taxpayers footing the bill through higher project costs”…

He called for the Morrison government to use the skilled migration program to help bridge the skills gap, specifically by implementing a visa for the infrastructure sector.

There’s a strong element of the tail wagging the dog here. The primary reason why Australia has embarked upon such a large infrastructure build is to cater for its ballooning population caused by mass immigration:

The Intergenerational Report projects that Australia’s population will swell by a whopping 13.1 million people (~50%) over the next 40 years to 38.8 million people – equivalent to adding another Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Australia’s existing population. And this will be driven by annual net overseas migration of 235,000.

The obvious question is: what’s the point of building all of this infrastructure if it will simply be ‘filled-up’ with migrants? How does this benefit existing Australian residents, especially given these projects will be funded via escalating user charges such as tolls?

Ultimately, existing residents will be charged more to use infrastructure that they previously used for free, with private companies like Transurban profiteering.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. Infrastructure Partnerships Australia CEO Adrian Dwyer

    He’s the pr1ck who also convinced the State governments that they need to introduce distance charging on electric cars.

  2. When you walk down the street with your 5yo and get verballed in mandarin by a team of 6 Chinese blokes redoing a shop front…in your own country…When the entire NBN service crew that responds to a callout is 5 Indian blokes standing around looking at their phones…you start thinking that these CEO types are in need of some guillotining.

    • Knock the largest mandarin speaker clean out and set an example for your kid.

      Yeah, I know that’s not the smartest or wisest advice you’ll ever hear but geez….how good would it feel?

    • We vote for it demanding lower prices. These companies are just responding to the customer, the customer is always right!

    • By the time legacy Australians feel motivated enough to get politically active it will be too late. Their children will be an ethnic minority in the country that was theirs to inherit.

  3. I'll have anotherMEMBER

    That’s what the whole recent skilled workers visa was about!

    Cheap Civil Engineers and Land Surveyors for contractors to churn and burn.

    There is absolutely no skills shortage of construction engineers and survey technicians. None.

    Charted Civil Design Engineers endorsed by Engineers Australia and Cadastral endorsed Registered Land Surveyors with SBQ/BOSSI etc. may be in demand but that is simply NOT what is used on these infrastructure projects!

    The cheaper the engineers and surveyors, the cheaper the quote to build these projects and the cheaper government gets their infrastructure and the higher the contractors profits. That’s all this is about.

    Engineers and surveyors are already working 60hr week minimums on these projects with no overtime.

    Something I noticed recently NAB was taken to court over for doing with their finance grads. I bet we don’t see similar action for overworked and burnt out engineering and surveying grads. Unlike the finance grads, the surveyors spend 50 of those 60 hours outside on a dusty road / rail job and the engineers spend the full 60hrs couped up in a site donga.

    The current large infrastructure industry is cancerous and as the CEO of John Holland put it a year or so ago, if something doesn’t change soon, there won’t be an Australian civil construction industry.

    Thanks for highlighting this issue Leith.

  4. The main problem is providing the pathway to permanent residency. Has anyone lived in Singapore to see how its done? Maybe we’ll need a visa category for manning subs and firing rifles.