Australia 'to steal' tens of thousands of British workers with offer of high wages, low bills and good healthcare

16 February 2023, 11:35 | Updated: 16 February 2023, 11:38

Western Australia wants 31,000 British workers
Western Australia wants 31,000 British workers. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Kit Heren

Western Australia is preparing an audacious swoop for more than 30,000 British workers in key industries with the offer of a better lifestyle Down Under.

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The state government wants to take doctors, police officers and teachers from the UK - at a time when all of those British sectors are already struggling for staff numbers.

Western Australia, whose capital is Perth, is sending a group of officials and politicians to the UK later in February to sell the opportunity to British workers.

They will also be looking for plumbers, miners, mechanics and builders.

Officials say the energy bills of people who move could be halved - suggesting Brits could spend the spare cash on 183 pints of beer, 110 roast dinners or 500 jars of Marmite instead.

Paul Papalia
Paul Papalia. Picture: Getty

Paul Papalia, the police and defence industry minister, said expats could also enjoy great food, "wine regions" and "coral reefs".

He said: "Our wages are higher and our cost of living is lower. Our health system is world class. You will be taken care of.

"Many of our ancestors were sent from the UK to Australia as convicts. Now, it would be a crime not to make the move."

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But the move has sparked fears of a workers' exodus among politicians and union bosses in the UK.

Steve Brine, chairman of the Commons health and social care select committee, said: "Any country is obviously entitled to import health care workers – as we do in the UK from elsewhere – but there's nothing to say our people have to go."

This caller says expats must take expensive test to register as nurse.

Tory MP Paul Bristow, another committee member, said the Australian initiative showed that the NHS needed to show that working in the UK remained an attractive option.

"We need to demonstrate the benefits of working in the UK to help them stay," he said. "It shows that we need to redouble our efforts to recruit new nurses, new doctors and demonstrate the benefits a career in the UK offers.' 

Steve Hartshorn, national chairman of the Police Federation, the policing union, said: "We need every officer we have in this time of crisis," adding that "the impact of these experienced and trained officers leaving will also affect the ability of those newer in service to learn and develop, and to provide the best service possible to the public."

Meanwhile Robin Walker, chairman of the education select committee, said: "Clearly we should be worried about the loss of any good teachers trained in the English system - the best way to address that is by making it attractive to stay."

A Police union boss said forces need every officer they can get
A Police union boss said forces need every officer they can get. Picture: Getty

Rachel Harrison, national secretary of the GMB union, said: "It's no wonder NHS workers are tempted to up sticks to another health service which pays better.

"The UK Government has allowed NHS workers' wages to fall behind, which is a massive factor in health service's record 133,000 vacancies and missed performance standards.

"If Ministers want to retain the best asset of the health service - the workforce - they need to talk pay now."

The Australian delegation will arrive on February 25 and visit London, Bristol, Edinburgh and Dublin to hold events and go to jobs fairs.

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