Thursday, December 28, 2017

Foreign pilots decision puts our safety at risk

We should make it easier for student pilots like Claire Gipps, Nick Evans, Bec Spencer and Noah Mirosch to get their licenses rather than importing foreign pilots. 

The Turnbull government think they can play the Australian people like a piano.

In April, Prime Minister announced a so-called ‘ban’ on 457 foreign worker visas. It would ‘ensure Australian workers are given the absolute first priority for jobs.’ Yet an almost identical Temporary Work Visas became law at the same time.

Turnbull went on: ‘We are making it easier for Australians to find work and we have restored order to our borders so we can ensure foreign workers have an opportunity to arrive through the appropriate channels.’

Note the stress on ‘restoring order to our borders’ and ‘absolute first priority for jobs’. Because just this week comes news that foreign pilots will be allowed into Australia on two-year visas to address what Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s suggests is a growing shortage of local pilots. ‘Airline pilot’ will be found on a revised list of skilled occupations allowed into Australia under the list of new TWVs to be announced next month.

The shortage has, according to industry lobbyists and the government, already led to flight cancellations, not that any concrete evidence has been provided.

Even if the problem exists this solution is a sugar-hit which masks a larger issue. Why in the first place are we not properly investing in the domestic training of domestic pilots to fill labour market gaps? Unemployment is at 7 per cent, not to mention massive underemployment, particularly in regional areas.

And why are we allowing our best and most experienced pilots to be poached by overseas carriers, notably Chinese companies?

The same goes for ownership of our airports.

It is a national disgrace that we are not training enough or retaining skilled pilots for our airlines when they should be expanding into a booming Asian market. We need government, business and unions to come together to fix this mess. Our safety depends upon it.

There is a real question mark over the qualifications and expertise of the foreign pilots flown in under the new visa system. Just ask the pilots who fly our iconic Qantas airline who have already voiced serious concerns. Every time we step on a plane we are told that our safety is their number one priority. Just who are we importing to fly millions of Australians across the expanses of our wide brown land? In particular, regional flyers have reason for concern. This at a time when aviation safety has repeatedly been called into question as the Turnbull government under-resources both AirServices and Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

There are legitimate fears about what these foreign pilots will be paid too, at a time when wages growth is at its lowest ever recorded levels. Can the government provide a rock-solid guarantee that these pilots will not be used to undermine hard-earned wages and conditions of our local workers?

That doesn’t just go for pilots. It owes the same iron-clad guarantee to our hardworking airline hosties, baggage handlers and aircraft maintenance workers. Otherwise the idea of having foreign pilots is simply a smokescreen for the Liberals’ ideological obsession with creating a low-wage, insecure work, race-to-the-bottom economy.

Peter Dutton has made much of his role in the Abbott government’s success in stopping unauthorised boat arrivals to Australia through a tough policy combination of offshore detention and turnbacks. He is meant to be the nation’s tough cop-on-the-beat, protecting us against very real terrorist threats. Yet now appears Dutton’s plan for offshore retention.

Malcolm Turnbull’s main protector doesn’t want to protect the Australian public when they are flying, as so many of us are over the Christmas and New Year period.

Offshore retention entails people not trained to our highest safety standards and on lower wages being brought into the country and in charge of the precious human cargo navigating our skies.

Original article can be found here ➤

Regional airline Rex says a tightening of visa restrictions for foreign workers last year has caused a hike in flight cancellations.

The airline’s boss, Neville Howell, has welcomed a move to gain allow foreign pilots into the country but warned experienced commercial pilots would need to be given more than two-year visas if the industry was to address a crippling shortage.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton added pilots to the list of in-need occupations in the eligibility criteria for temporary work visas, it was confirmed last week.

That will allow foreign pilots to work in Australia for two years, however industry figures have said at least four years would be necessary to attract quality, experienced pilots.

The Regional Aviation Association of Australia (RAAA) is one of the groups lobbying for a longer visa period for foreign pilots.

SYDNEY–The Australian government is expected to relax restrictions on visas for foreign pilots as a national shortage sees planes grounded and flights canceled, aviation officials said on Friday.

Australia earlier this year removed pilots from a list of eligible professions allowed to work in the country as so-called skilled migrants amid a crackdown to promote “Australia-first”.

With a global shortage of pilots, Australia’s international carriers have lost staff to competitors, forcing them to recruit from domestic carriers, who are in turn employing trained pilots from smaller regional airlines.

Unable to source enough pilots, Australia’s regional carriers have been forced to cancel flights, but Mike Higgins, chief executive officer of the industry body, the Regional Aviation Association of Australia, said the country’s government has told him it will ease restrictions in January.

“The government has said it will add pilots to the skilled migrant visa list in January and they will be able to work in Australia for two years,” said Higgins.

Representatives for Australia’s minister for home affairs Peter Dutton did not immediately respond to request for comment.

A relaxation of visa restrictions would be provide some relief to Australia’s rural travelers, which have been beset by frequent flight cancellations.

According to Australian government data, 3 percent of domestic flights were canceled in November, the highest monthly level in nearly six years. Cancellations of Australian domestic flights hit a high of more than 5 percent in December 2011 when a volcanic ash cloud from Chile grounded flights.

The carriers that had the most cancellations were Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd and QantasLink, the regional carrier of Qantas Airways Ltd, the data showed.

Representatives for both companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Australia’s center-right government can ill-afford to alienate rural voters, a central voter block for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is struggling to keep his grip onto power.

Australia’s opposition Labor Party welcomed the likely visa relaxation but said the government must do more to improve the ability of locals to train as pilots.

“We need to make sure we can keep our planes in the air, you can’t train pilots in just a day or a week or a month,” Anthony Albanese told reporters on Friday.

“The problem is training enough Australian pilots to fulfill our domestic aviation needs.”

Original article can be found here ➤

Foreign pilots will once again be allowed into Australia on working visas to help address a shortage that threatens to ground planes and cancel flights. 

The occupations eligible for foreign worker visas were slashed during a government shake-up in April but from next month pilots will once again be granted access after concerns about the national shortage.

The Regional Aviation Association of Australia says the office of the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has confirmed the change to the organisation, which is now lobbying for a four-year visa period rather than two.

“In order to attract suitably senior pilots, who more than likely have a family growing up and so forth, we need to make it attractive enough for them to come across and uproot their family,” its chief executive, Mike Higgins, said on Thursday. “A four-year period seems to be a sweet spot.”

Higgins said there had been a “trickle-down effect”, with large international carriers, such as Etihad and Emirates, recruiting from Australian carriers, who then had to hire from smaller regional airlines.

The foreign pilots would serve in a training and mentoring role to their Australian counterparts, he added.

He said if the current situation continued services would need to be cut.

The opposition transport spokesman, Anthony Albanese, said the skills shortages were an “indictment of the failure” of the government’s handling of Australia’s aviation industry.

“The current government has dropped the ball,” Albanese said in Sydney.

“Australia should not only be able to produce enough skilled pilots to service our domestic industry, we should also have the capacity to train pilots for all around the world as an export industry to benefit our national economy.”

Albanese also raised concern about potential foreign ownership of Australian airports and ports after reports that half of a regional Western Australian airport is now Chinese owned.

“I think there should be very close scrutiny of facilities, be they ports or airports, to ensure that there is majority Australian ownership and therefore majority Australian control of these facilities,” Albanese said. “I think there is a national interest test when it comes to ports or airports.”

The federal Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells acknowledged the pilot shortage but said the previous Labor government also had to take some blame for the longstanding problem.

“Clearly there have been shortages, there have been issues that have been accumulating in recent years,” Fierravanti-Wells told Sky News.

Dutton declined to comment.

Original article can be found here ➤

Foreign pilots will be allowed entry into Australia on two-year work visas to fix a growing national shortage that is seeing planes grounded and flights cancelled.

The move has been questioned by Qantas pilots who have raised doubt over the quality of pilots likely to be recruited in regional areas.

“The United States and China are paying huge money and that doesn’t leave much for the sort of wages they are paying in regional Australia,” Murray Butt, president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, which represents more than 2000 Qantas pilots, told News Corp.

“We need to look at the Chinese airlines buying up flight schools in Australia. That might fix their problem but it doesn’t fix ours.”

However, the peak body for regional airlines has claimed the move by the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was made after their own lobbying efforts.

Mike Higgins, CEO of the Regional Aviation Association of Australia, told News Corp the government had advised that the decision would be confirmed in a revised skilled occupation list — replacing the former 457 visa regime — to be released next month.

He also said the association is talking with the Minister about extending the visa period to four years.

Qantas pilots are wanting a government white paper to address declining output of Australian flying skills, describing the move to bring in foreign pilots as a “very short-term fix”.

The lack of pilots is a result of poaching of major airline pilots by overseas airlines and increasing foreign ownership of pilot training skills.

The problem is already being felt with Qantas forced to cancel a number of its regional services.

Original article can be found here ➤


  1. CASA is THE single biggest pediment to the current pilot shortage. Part 61 pilot license system is a resounding failure and despite the bandages continually being applied the bleeding can't and won't stop! Flying schools can't attract students so the beginning of the cycle has no means of creating new pilots. CASA has changed regulations created obstacles and provided no outcomes to deal with 'fixing something which wasn't broken!!
    And pilots are only the tip of the iceberg- aircraft engineering is in even worse position with NIL incentive for business to take on and train apprentices. Currently industry can and does bring in mechanics on 457 Visas as again, CASA has made it too difficult and not attractive to entice young. People into the industry.
    Both political parties are at fault because neither will reign in CASA and make them accountable. The tail is wagging the dog!