Article – Foreign labour call

24 February 2014
Renee Viellaris
Townsville Bulletin
TAX breaks should be ruled out for Northern Australia and businesses should be able to hire more foreign workers, says lobby group the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland ( CCIQ).
It has urged a reversal of the tough migration restrictions imposed by the Labor government in 2013 and a massive investment in infrastructure.
The Abbott Government is holding an inquiry into the economy in Northern Australia, which has been struggling to create jobs and maintain a strong workforce.
Policies will be developed for areas north of the Tropic of Capricorn, spanning Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.
CCIQ’s submission said the Government needed to get policies right in Northern Australia so it could tap into the so- called Asian Century.
CCIQ spokesman Nick Behrens said the Government should address why business does not relocate to the north.
He said the answer was obvious: poor access to telecommunications infrastructure – including the NBN – problems with roads during the wet season and availability of labour.
“There has been talk of tax offsets to encourage businesses to the region, but there are more pressing issues that will improve the attractiveness of Northern Australia to prospective international and domestic visitors,’’ he said.
“In the absence of nationwide tax reform, there is a risk that tax breaks will do little to stimulate the northern Australian economy, which is the very purpose of this inquiry.
“Ultimately, population flows towards economic and employment opportunities.
“The key issue is the availability of labour and the skills shortages plaguing northern Queensland.
“The Government must act to repeal the amendments made to 457 visa requirements to allow business owners to employ international workers in roles that have been shunned by Australians in favour of the big cities.’’
Queensland Senator Ian Macdonald complained to the inquiry when its terms of reference omitted a review of the zone tax system. They were instated in December.
Senator Macdonald said flexible zone tax arrangements were important to boosting the economic success of north Queensland.
Courtesy of the Townsville Bulletin