Labor quiet on work visa row

Labor looks set to distance itself from Gillard government laws that oil and gas companies claim would have damaged WA's offshore industry.

The Greens will try this week to strike out regulations put in place by the coalition that cleared the way for major projects such as the $54 billion Gorgon LNG venture to use foreign workers.

However, the Greens are unlikely to get Labor support, even though the move would keep in place laws pushed through by the former Gillard government.

Assistant Minister for Immigration Michaelia Cash moved this year to change regulations to allow pipe construction vessels to be crewed with workers on maritime crew visas.

In 2012, the Federal Court found foreign workers on pipe-laying vessels working on the multibillion-dollar Gorgon gas project off WA were working outside the migration zone and did not need Australian work visas.

The decision angered the powerful Maritime Union of Australia and, just months before it was thrown out of power, the Gillard government introduced laws to ensure anyone working on an offshore resources project needed a visa - increasing the red tape involved in employing foreigners on offshore vessels.

Without the numbers until now to repeal the Gillard government laws in the Senate, the coalition regulated to allow companies to hire workers on maritime crew visas, which are visas easily obtained by foreigners. A spokesman for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's office said Labor would consider the disallowance.

However, it is understood Labor is unlikely to support the Greens motion.

Senator Cash said if Labor backed the Greens, the entire offshore oil and gas sector would be imperilled.

She said if the regulations were disallowed it could shut down vital ships pivotal to major construction projects.

"Given the importance of the oil and gas sector to WA, every WA Labor senator should stand up for the State and not cave in to the demands of the Greens and the MUA," she said.

To disallow the regulation, the Greens would have to get support from Labor as well as two crossbench senators.

Oil and gas body the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association said the effect of the previous government's laws was to extend the control of the maritime union over the offshore industry.

The West Australian

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