Billionaire plea for cheap labour

October 21, 2007,

BILLIONAIRE retailer Gerry Harvey says Australia needs a two-tier wage system to allow employers to pay foreign guest workers less than locals.

The Harvey Norman boss said Australia's prosperity was creating a labour shortage and endangering the nation's competitiveness.

He said a growing number of Australian manufacturers were moving overseas, where cheap labour was plentiful.

He called on the Federal Government to allow foreign workers on fixed visas to form a second tier to the labour market.

"Australia doesn't have cheap labour. Many overseas workers would be prepared to move here for a much better life and half the money Australians earn," he said.

"When you get unemployment down to four per cent, to three per cent, to two per cent, business can't get the labour ...

Mr Harvey said both major parties needed to open the gates to migrants.

"The US can draw on a lot of cheap labour from Mexico and South America," he said.

"People from those countries move to the US looking for a better life.

"European countries can draw on cheap labour from eastern Europe ...

"You won't get politicians saying what I'm saying, but privately they know this sort of thing is a reality in the future."

Govt rejects two-tier wage system, the Age
ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence attacked the plan and called on the federal government to state its position, after Labor employment spokeswoman Julia Gillard voiced her disagreement.

"I mean this is a proposal that's designed to create a two-tier wages structure in Australia, which of course can't happen other than by the extension of AWAs," Mr Lawrence said.

A spokeswoman for Immigration and Citizenship Minister Kevin Andrews said the coalition would not move in that direction.

"The coalition have repeatedly ruled out any such proposal as being inappropriate and frankly un-Australian," she said.

"There is no place for a guest worker scheme in Australia, now or into the future." ...
Are these our only two options? Send manufacturing offshore, or import low paid workers here? I'm no economist, but can't we do any better than this? I'd rather take my chances with an isolationist, protectionist approach than either of the other options.


Anonymous said...

Big business like the Pratts, Packers etc are not content with importing white collar workers to lower professional wages now want an award system outside that which was created for over 100 years for blue collar. One in 20 australians like me don't live there - why is that Gerry? If I was economically fulfilled in Australia I would never have left.

KG said...

The first move will be to import cheap foreign labour, which will have the effect of driving down incomes for Australian wage earners.
The second move will be to "top up" those low wages from taxpayer's money because the imported cheap labour can't afford to live as most Australians do.
Lose/lose, except for a few wealthy business owners.