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Govt brushes off union ire over EMAs
Govt brushes off union ire over EMAs

The Federal Government has brushed aside a union push for it to abandon plans to let big resources projects hire foreign workers.

The government raised the ire of unions earlier this year when it announced it would allow 1700 foreign workers to be employed at Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill mine under an Enterprise Migration Agreement.

Australian Council of Trade Union leader Dave Oliver wants EMAs axed with commodity prices softening and recent job losses in the mining sector.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen did not agree.

"A lot of work went into making sure that Australians get the opportunity for those jobs but that there is appropriate provisioning for certainty for these very, very large projects to be able to proceed in the knowledge that they can get the workers necessary if they're not able to source the labour in Australia," Mr Bowen told reporters in Canberra.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said securing further investment in the Australian mining industry hinged on getting more skilled workers and increasing labour mobility.

Union leaders should not put their heads in the sand about Enterprise Migration Agreements, which allow companies to bring in skilled labour from overseas under certain circumstances.

"You can't say we can't have EMAs if Australians aren't prepared to chase the available jobs," he said.

"So you can't have your cake and eat it too."

Mr Ferguson said Australians were not taking available jobs in mining areas, including Gladstone in Queensland.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz said the last thing Australia wanted was to see more mining projects "falling off the page" or current projects prejudiced.

"The last thing we want is those agreements being undermined so we see even more developments falling off the page," Senator Abetz told Sky News.

Senator Abetz said the coalition supported EMAs in principle.