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Doug Cameron: guest workers threaten Australian wages and conditions

Radio Australia has reported NSW Senator-elect and former national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, Doug Camereon as warning that experiences overseas show that guest workers push down wages and conditions for all workers. He said Australia should not have a two-tiered immigration system.

"I don't think this can simply be an economic analysis, this has to deal with the social consequences of what you do as well," he said.

"Overseas - in the UK, the US, Europe and in Asia - problems with migration schemes are there and we just can't sweep it under the carpet."

The Melbourne Age reported Doug Cameron as also warning against plans to bring in Chinese labour to work on major national infrastructure projects. He warned that this could undermine efforts to develop engineering and construction skills among young Australians.

Senator-elect Cameron's claims were disputed by Paul Howes the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union and by The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's chief executive, Peter Anderson.

Peter Anderson told, "Very few employers would see scope for the creation of a migrant labour force to the exclusion of local workers."

"It would probably be more costly. We need to bring in people who can adapt, with long-term language skills. Business prefers a stable labour force."

However, this has not been the experience of many of Australia's IT workforce, who have found in recent years found themselves systematically discriminated against in favour of overseas IT professionals.

The opposition leader, Brendon Nelson, said he does not support a proposed unskilled guest worker scheme.

See also: The Australian proposes apartheid 'solution' to Australia's labour shortage 'crisis' of 15 May 08

Appendix: unpublished letter to Brisbane's Courier Mail newspaper


Dear editor,

If the Pacific Island guest worker scheme works, as Steve Lewis ("Guest workers a foreign policy challenge", 16 May) claims it will, it will, in effect, be an apartheid labor scheme. If it breaks down as many fear, it will result in a further permanent increase to our population and make worse all the resultant problems which fill the pages of the Courier Mail almost every day of the week - traffic congestion, housing unaffordability, the water, health and eduction crisis and the ever growing financial costs of fixing them.
If we accept claims about there being a labour shortage, then why don't, we instead of further degrading our quality of life, change our priorities as a society. For example, must we dig up all of our mineral wealth now, when it is clearly making global warming worse? Indeed reducing our mineral exports and generous foreign aid programs, including aid for birth control, would be far better ways to help Pacific islanders.
James Sinnamon


The Courier Mail's letters sub-editor told me, when I phoned her on Sunday 18 May her, that my letter sent on Friday 16 May did not address the issues raised in an article in favour of the proposed Pacific Island guest workers scheme in Friday's Courier Mail (I am unable to find the article on the web unfortunately).

The letters sub-editor said that mine was the only letter she received concerning this question, which I found surprising. I asked if she were to receive other letters on the question which she deemed to be more suitable, would she print them. She said she probably would.

No other letter was published as of Tuesday 20 May. It is striking that in the Courier Mail, as opposed to the Australian, which has been stridently pushing the immigration barrow, there has been no coverage of the issue of immigration or guest workers since Steve Lewis's article was published on Friday as far as I have been able to detect.