Asylum deal good for business, says Lae chamber

National, Normal

The National, Thursday August 1st, 2013

 THE Rudd-O’Neill asylum seeker deal will be positive for business, Lae Chamber of Commerce president, Alan McLay says.

Under the deal, asylum seekers arriving in Australia will be transferred to a processing centre on Manus Island.

The agreement has drawn heavy criticism of the Kevin Rudd and Peter O’Neill governments, although some business people, including those on Manus Island and the PNG Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have welcomed the opportunities the centre will provide.

The extensions and maintenance to the Manus Island refugee camp will give an opportunity to many Lae-based contractors, McLay said in an article in the chamber’s latest weekly newsletter.

Lae-based suppliers will be given an opportunity to sell their products for the short term and possibly the long term, and the Manus economy will be stimulated, giving the local people the ability to spend more on household goods and foodstuffs, much of which will be sourced from Lae, McClay said.

He said the chamber did not want to get involved in the debate over whether those classified as refugees should be given PNG citizenship, acknowledging it as a “particularly sensitive” issue.

While already skilled refugees could fill a “vital skills gap” in trades and professional areas, he noted that unskilled refugees “will be unfairly competing directly with PNG unskilled workers, who are already faced with the insufficient availability of jobs”.

McLay welcomed the prospect of more aid money being spent on infrastructure, including a new K650 million hospital in Lae and the plan to upgrade the Ramu Highway.