Foreign labour key to Aussie energy plans
Santos chief executive David Knox says Australia needs to tap into the large pool of foreign skilled labour to meet the planned development of energy projects in the years ahead.
The head of the oil and gas producer says Australia does not have enough skilled workers for the investment pipeline and therefore has to address the issue of the nation's skills shortage.
"This is not about a push to bring in cheap unskilled workers from overseas," Knox told the Australian Institute of Energy's national conference in Sydney on Monday.
"The scale, speed and effort involved in building major projects demand more talent, skills and resources than our population can hope to deliver.
"To successfully address this skills challenge, we need to open our minds as a nation and realise that there is no skills shortage if we truly do see ourselves as part of Asia.
"Skills and talent are plentiful in our region and we are well positioned to take advantage of it.
"We simply have to give ourselves the permission and realise that opening up as a nation has its true advantages."
Knox said the lack of skilled labour, shortage of experienced subcontractors and dearth of specialist suppliers was one of the biggest contributors to cost inflation in Australia.
"Without the right people, projects ultimately experience further delays and increases in costs," Knox said.
Earlier in 2012, the federal government said the Roy Hill iron ore project in Western Australia could hire up to 1,715 skilled workers from overseas if it could not find suitably qualified staff in Australia.
All overseas workers at Roy Hill would be paid exactly the same rates as Australians, Roy Hill said.
Knox said Australia was not a monopoly producer of gas, given suppliers in Canada, East Africa and the United States were also competing to sell gas to the emerging nations of Asia.
As such, Australia needed to maintain its cost competitiveness "so that new projects are sanctioned to meet both Asian and domestic demand", Knox said.
"Without these additional projects going ahead, new investment in Australia's LNG (liquefied natural gas) industry will dry up in 2017," Knox said.
"The oil and gas industry, the sectors servicing the industry and governments at all levels need to ensure that we are as cost competitive as possible."
Knox said recent studies showed Australia - as the most expensive offshore exploration and production location in the world - with costs three times higher than the US Gulf Coast.