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Foreign workers will continue to play a leading part in filling positions in vital services in rural Australia, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said on Monday.
In defence of the government's Temporary Skilled Work (457) visa regulations, in which foreign workers are allowed to work in Australia for up to four years, Joyce said overseas workers were vital to the rural Australian workforce as urban-based professionals continue to shun moving out of the cities, reports Xinhua news agency.
Using the example of doctors, Joyce said that many regional communities would have no local doctors if only Australian-educated practitioners were allowed to practice.
He said that while, in a perfect world, locally-trained doctors would be available to all Australians regardless of post code, it would simply never happen as many local doctors were unable or unwilling to move out of major cities.
Joyce said the government's 457 visa regulations hit a "sweet spot" which the opposition's planned regulations would miss.
"The first thing that all Australians would love in their town is an Australian doctor," Joyce told Guardian Australia.
"And if they can't get an Australian doctor, the next best thing is a foreign doctor. It's a real worry for people in regional Australia that if you or your child gets sick, there simply is no doctor there."