Enterprise Migration Agreements
When Australia needed to build a great big hydro electric scheme in the 1950s to generate clean power and to ensure a year-round, reliable flow of water into the Murray and Murrumbidgee, we imported foreign labour.
Nearly two thirds of the Snowy Scheme’s total 100,000 strong workforce came from overseas, from as many as 30 different countries. Many stayed, lending a distinctly European flavour which still remains in today’s skifields and Alpine towns, and many returned back home.
The Snowy Scheme was far from the first major Australian nation-building project to import foreign labour. The influx of fortune seekers in our first gold rush, in the 1850s, nearly tripled the national population. How ironic, then, that we are now arguing so feverishly about the importation of a few thousand foreign workers to the nation’s booming mining sector, a sector which is easily the largest driver of non-service sector productivity in our modern economy.
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You know you’re in strife as a political leader when you must rely on the almost uniformly vacuous medium of Twitter to demonstrate that your leadership is safe. Yet so it was with Julia Gillard, who said she was satisfied with government whip Joel Fitzgibbon’s declaration (in 140 characters or less) that she had his support.
“I thank my colleagues for the publicity but no one does more to support the PM and the government than me!” Fitzgibbon wrote from his Twitter handle @fitzhunter to quell suggestions he was canvassing alternate leaders. It was schoolyard stuff – “hey JG we are still cool and UR awesome J Fitz xoxo” – made more so by the addition of a chirpy exclamation mark.
Setting the specifics of Julia Gillard’s leadership aside, the broader problem for the Government is that this latest flare-up goes to the one thing which threatens to kill it dead. And that is the perception that it is too busy focussing on its own survival to concentrate fully on issues which affect the day to day lives of Australians.
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