Majority of people behind temporary skilled migration

Date: Jun 05, 2012

Most Australians (62 per cent) are supportive of the idea of encouraging more temporary skilled migration, according to a new study from the Lowy Institute.

As debate grows over the Roy Hill iron ore project, spearheaded by mining magnate Gina Rinehart, the poll reveals how supportive Australia workers are of overseas employees.

The Roy Hill project recently received the first Enterprise Migration Agreement in order to help fill skills gaps in the resources sector that there are not enough Australian workers for.

Employees will be brought over on 457 visas to help with the three-year construction phase of the project, although training positions are also on offer to locals.

A total of 1,715 migrant workers will migrate, while 2,000 training places are available to Australians so that they can acquire the skills they need on the job.

Significant support was also shown for last year's announcement that 2,500 marines from the US would be based in Darwin on a rotating basis - a process that migration lawyers may have played a role in.

A total of 74 per cent of respondents offered their backing to the scheme, while 46 per cent said they would still be happy if the number was increased to about 2,500 marines.

The first round of marines arrived in Darwin in early April, which chief minister Paul Henderson said was a welcome move, as they could contribute to the cultural vibrancy of the city.

However, the Australian Department of Defence was keen to point out that there are no US military bases in this country and that situation is not set to change.

Respondents to the Lowry Institute poll were also asked to share their opinions on the Australian economy - the strength of the country compared to the rest of the world is often a major driver for migration.

The results reflected a certain level of anxiety among Australians, although many of them believed the country had avoided recession due to the demand for resources from China and other nations.

"We're aware that much of the rest of the world looks at Australia as a land of comparative wealth, and we're apprehensive about the possible downsides of that," commented executive director of the institute Michael Wesley.

A considerable number of Australians (87 per cent) also identified that a strong allegiance with the US is important for national security - up from just 63 per cent in 2007.