Queensland is set to relax visa requirement for overseas workers to combat growing shortages especially in the resources and mining sectors, the state’s Treasurer Tim Nicholls has confirmed.
Last financial year Queensland sponsored only 212 visas, whilst 22,247 state sponsored places were filled nationally. Nicholls said that the state has fallen behind at a time when there are more jobs due to the boom in resources.
‘Queensland has fallen behind other Australian states and today has some of the most onerous criteria for state sponsored visas,’ he explained.
‘We will also engage with the Commonwealth Government to increase our business visa allocation places,’ he added.
Under current visa policy, experience requirements are much stricter than in neighbouring states, he pointed out. For example, an engineer wishing to live and work in Queensland is required to have has much as seven years experience, in Western Australia the same engineer would only require 12 months of experience.
In an effort to attract more foreign labour to the region and combat growing skill shortages, Nicholls said the state would be working with the national government to offer more visas to foreign workers.
Queensland deputy prime minister Jeff Seeney said it was vital that Queensland took advantage of the economic opportunity the mining industry presented.
‘The revenue opportunities for a state like ours are very limited. But one of the main revenue opportunities for this state is the mining industry, principally the coal industry which is the biggest part,’ he added.
Seeney also said that mining exploration arrangements known as ‘farm-ins would be exempt from paying transfer duty.
‘A farm-in is where the holder of an exploration permit offers another party a stake in the tenement in exchange for undertaking or funding some or all of the exploration activities,’ he explained.
‘Our 2012/2013 Budget initiative will support smaller mining operators, and Queensland’s exploration industry more broadly, to help grow this vital sector of the economy. This decision is a massive win for industry bodies, including the Queensland Resources Council, who wrote to government requesting such a concession,’ he said.
Seeney added that a Cabinet Committee would be established to lower the regulatory burden and help mining companies reduce their operating costs.
‘This government is aggressively tackling overregulation and clearing project approval backlogs,’ he said.