Gina Rinehart’s $9.5 billion Roy Hill iron ore project no longer needs the 1700 migrant workers it previously applied for under the Federal Government’s Enterprise Migration Agreements plan.
Top executives working on the project, which is majority-owned by Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting, have said that the local labour market has cooled to the point where they can fill all 8000 construction jobs with Australian workers.
“Recent detailed market research and contractor feedback indicates that under prevailing economic conditions we should now be able to secure our construction skills requirements within Australia,” manager Darryl Hockey told the Financial Review.
In 2012, the Federal Government faced an angry backlash after approving an Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) which allowed Rinehart’s company to bring in some 1,700 foreign workers to work on the Roy Hill project.
Roy Hill was the first venture of its kind to be awarded a controversial EMA after managers proved it was facing a labour shortfall for the construction phase of the project.
The EMA announcement was a shock to the Labor party and sparked angry campaigns from unions. At the time of the announcement Labor backbencher Doug Cameron said that he was gobsmacked and bemused by the decision, and did not believe Labor's caucus would be comfortable with it either.
Ms Rinehart has long called for easier access to foreign temporary workers to help fill labour shortages.
Speaking in a video posted on the Sydney Mining Club's website last year to discuss the Roy Hill EMA, Mrs Rinehart said that Australians should not be complacent about the investment pipeline given that African labourers would work for less than $2 a day.
With the Roy Hill project having to take on some $4 billion in debt funding from international providers the EMA was a way for the company to prove it could provide a secure and affordable labour stream.
As the EMA was being announced however, iron ore prices were plunging and industry players like BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group were pushing back projects which ultimately freed up workers for other projects and released some of the pressure on rising wages in the market.
Should Gina Rinehart be allowed to import cheap foreign workers? Tell us on our Facebook page.