Business groups have warned that tinkering with the visa scheme will threaten multi-billion dollar projects and that unions are muddying the waters.
Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor said the temporary skilled work subclass 457 program would be changed in response to the shifting needs of the Australian economy and employment market.
He said the government recognised that in some industries and some regions there were genuine skill shortages that could only be addressed through the use of foreign labour through the 457 visa program.
“It has become clear, however, that the growth in the 457 program is out of step with those skills shortages and the government has evidence that some employers – and I emphasise that word some – are using 457 visas to discriminate against locals,” O’Connor said.
“This cannot continue.
“In this context the government has decided to introduce a set of changes to the 457 program to ensure employers give Australian workers a fair go.”
Under the changes:
- employers have to demonstrate they are not nominating positions where a genuine shortage does not exist
- the English language requirements for certain positions have been raised
- the enforceability of existing training requirements for businesses that use the program will be strengthened
- the market salary exemption will rise from $180,000 to $250,000
- on-hire arrangements of 457 visa workers will be restricted
- compliance and enforcement powers will be beefed up to stop employers who have routinely abused the 457 system
- stakeholders will be consulted to ensure market rate provisions more effectively protect local employment/
Australian Mines and Metals Association chief executive Steve Knott said it was vitally important that accessing skilled migration programs did not become more costly and complex or delay projects that created much needed jobs for thousands of Australians.
“Everyone involved in policy and debate on this issue needs to have access to the full facts, including the importance of accessing overseas skills in industries facing skills shortages,” Knott said.
“The carefully concocted position advanced by the CFMEU does not provide a sound foundation for effective, balanced and objective policies in this area.”