³The aim of the 457 visa scheme is to allow the entry of foreign workers to fill particular skilled vacancies that cannot be filled by local workers,² she said.
³There have been a number of recent lay-offs of meat workers around Australia and any vacancies in the WA industry should first be put to those skilled workers.
³In addition, there is a high level of unemployment among 18 to 25 year-olds and the industry should be proactive in attempting to attract these people into the industry.²
Ms Quirk said Australian workers were likely to be in a better position than those from overseas to move quickly from their current locations to take advantage of continuing job opportunities.
³In addition, the costs associated with employing locally are considerably lower than from overseas destinations,² she said.
Ms Quirk also rejected suggestions that she had blocked the industry from participating in the 457 visa scheme.
³The Carpenter Government has been working with the Federal Government over the past months to develop a labour agreement which would assist the industry,² she said.
³As part of this process, the protection of workers employed under 457 is paramount as is the protection of local jobs for Australians.
³At a recent meeting held at my request, I was informed that the Federal Government would shortly circulate the agreement.
³I received advice to that effect last week. Any suggestion the state is being slow to act is simply untrue.²
Dardanup Butchering Company chief executive officer Mark Panizza said he believed Ms Quirk had been ill informed.
³The incumbent managing director of the Small Business Development Comission Steve Moir has been ably assisting the industry to finalise a labour agreement with the Federal Government,² he said.
³I assume that Ms Quirk is the minister that he reports to and yet she has said that employing overseas workers may not be the best option for the industry.
³The minister has gone from releasing a press release one week saying that she is off to China in a bid to attract skilled and business migrants to WA, and the next week comes out and says that the meat industry should be looking to employ Australians.
³Believe me, if we could we would employ Australian workers, they are just not out there and I don¹t think the Minister is completely informed on the situation.²
Mr Panizza said abattoirs in WA had contacted eastern states abattoirs that had shut down or put off workers to try and get them to move to WA.
³They have either already been offered jobs by other east coast processors or are not prepared to relocate to WA,² he said.