Shell chief asks Australian government to act on high wages

The global head of Shell, Europe's biggest oil company, has called on the Gillard government in Australia to act on high wages and poor productivity, which, according to him, threatened the long-term viability of important projects.

Shell, which spends over $30-billion in Australia, said it should be allowed to use more foreign workers on some of its gas projects in the country, which already count as some of the costliest in its global portfolio.

He said there was the high Australian dollar and also the scarce workforce, therefore Shell was concerned about the overall rates which it was paying for Australian labour and that clearly needed some intervention.

Resistance by the union movement had made it difficult for the Labor government to relax foreign labour rules.

''I think in order to actually stay competitive and work for the revenue flow into the country, we need to make sure we can invest in a competitive way and for that we need to make the best out of it and bring some people in,'' he told the ABC's 7:30 programme last night.

The remarks by one of the world's top energy executives come following treasurer Wayne Swan's claims that Voser backed the carbon tax, which is to come into effect in nine days, and accused the opposition of talking down economic growth.