Visas for temporary overseas workers needed to help rebuild flood hit parts of Queensland will be fast tracked by Australian immigration officials, it has been announced.
Approvals will now take just five days instead of 20 for temporary overseas workers if an employer is unable to find skilled local workers to do the job, said Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
This move is intended to provide businesses involved in the reconstruction effort with quick access to skilled workers from overseas where local labour supply is insufficient. 'Skilled labour will be as important as funding for rebuilding. There will be extra resources, assistance to employers and simpler processes to ensure a five day turnaround for decision ready applications for workers in a host of nominated occupations to work on rebuilding Queensland,' Gillard added.
The government has established a special DIAC team to facilitate the prompt turnaround of subclass 457 visa applications, related to work in flood affected areas. The subclass 457 visa provides a fast and flexible route for the entry of skilled migrants to temporarily reside and work in Australia.
Under the programme, Australian businesses can sponsor multiple skilled workers in a wide variety of occupations to Australia, for a period of up to four years. Business groups have welcomed the extra resources offered by DIAC to ensure skills shortages and needs can be met by overseas skilled labour where necessary.
Since the flood crisis, DIAC has been inundated with enquiries from potential employers asking for priority visa processing for migrants from Ireland, the UK and Canada, amongst others.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said that although the government's first priority is to see Australian workers fill flood reconstruction job vacancies the demand is such that thousands of overseas workers will be needed.
'DIAC is working with the Queensland government to ensure these special processing measures will only be available to employers genuinely involved in reconstruction,' a spokesman said.
Gillard said the flood recovery measures would also boost the ability of local jobseekers to fill vacancies on Queensland rebuilding projects and the government is expanding a relocation programme for the unemployed to help them get to where they are needed.
The massive clean up is expected to create thousands of jobs and could cost the Federal Government some $5.6 billion.
Meanwhile, Gold Coast Tourism has launched a worldwide tourism campaign to highlight that the state is still ready to welcome overseas tourists. 'There has been a general misunderstanding overseas thanks to reports by CNN and other English language stations that the whole of Queensland has been affected,' said Gold Coast Tourism boss Martin Winter.