18 August 2014
The findings are contained in a report produced for the industry’s peak body, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, due to be handed to the federal parliamentary joint select committee on northern Australia today.
The report, Heading North: The Importance of Labour Mobility in Developing Northern Australia, finds that as population concentrates in cities around the nation’s southern rim, there is “a divide between where people live and where the new jobs are”.
It recommends steps to facilitate migration, including easier access to 457 visas to help employers bring skilled and semi-skilled labour from overseas, and support for FIFO and DIDO (drive-in-drive-out) workers. APPEA chief executive David Byers said it provided a roadmap for governments and industries.
“Access to a skilled and mobile workforce is one of the most critical issues facing Australia’s oil and gas industry,” he said.
“The vast majority of major oil and gas projects are located in northern regions where demand for labour exceeds local supply. Access to trained and job-ready local workers for key projects is limited.”
But the report only hints at a fundamental problem: many of the areas where oil and gas are likely to be developed, particularly in the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia, are on Aboriginal land; unemployment in remote Aboriginal communities can be as high as 100 per cent.
Access to labour is the greatest risk to developing the industry except for “barriers to land access and tenure”, the report finds. If oil and gas explorers want to persuade Aboriginal traditional owners to grant access and tenure agreements, it is very likely they will have to find ways to employ more locals. The report recommends upskilling and improving pathways to indigenous job participation.
Courtesy of The Australian