18 April 2017
This article was reproduced from the original by The Daily Telegraph
Business groups have had a mixed reaction to the Turnbull government’s decision to abolish the 457 visa program, with some groups welcoming the news while others have said they were blindsided.
Today Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the visa will be replaced by a new temporary worker program which would be better targeted at sectors which genuinely need overseas labour.
Business lobby group the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the restructuring of the temporary skilled migration program will help build public confidence in the program so Australian businesses can continue to access skills from overseas workers.
“Australian businesses need access to skills in order to grow. We welcome the replacement of the 457 visa and the reiteration of the need to focus on addressing skills shortages in those areas of Australia where some employers find it tough to get the workforce they need,” acting CEO Jenny Lambert said.
“Public confidence in the skilled migration system is vital, and this announcement will help to achieve that confidence. It is a chance to hit the ‘reset button’ on temporary skilled migration,” she said.
The number of 457 visas that were being used actively at the end of 2016, per sector.
The Accommodation Association of Australia, which represents around 1000 properties around Australia, including hotels, resorts and motels, said the abolition of the 457 visas was a “surprise”.
“It’s an interesting development given we were fighting to preserve 457 visas some time ago with the government, and now it’s a complete abolishment of it, we have been taken by surprise to be frank,” CEO Richard Munro said.
“If the government is going to abolish it then would have to have a deep understanding of what is going to replace it because there is a danger that we will be short of labour, particularly in regional areas in a seasonal situation like far north Queensland,” he said.
The Australian Workers’ Union questioned whether the government’s announcement was just a rebranding.
“It’s good to see the Liberals backflip and acknowledge what the AWU has been saying for years: that 457 visas are easily manipulated by companies to dud Australians out of jobs and to lower employment standards,” said AWU national secretary Daniel Walton.
“But judging this government on past form there is every chance this is more rebrand than revolution, so it will pay to watch the detail,” he said.
The Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the sweeping changes to the visa system were welcome.
“The sweeping changes announced today to Australia’s skilled visa system will contribute positively to delivering the skills Australia needs and they will further improve the integrity of the program,” Mr Willox said.
“The 457 Visa system was a highly valued program but misunderstandings of its use and exaggerations of its misuse led it to become a lightning rod for anti-migration sentiments,” he said.
The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association said it was also not consulted by the government on the announcement.
“Really consultation with the sector is important so that the government actually understands the impact of the decision and the capacity to plan for change and be able to respond to it,” CEO Alison Verhoeven said.
“The key issue for sectors like health, including aged care and also disability, is that we need to have staff available right across Australia including in rural and regional areas to provide essential services … Generally I would suggest there aren’t people available in rural areas (where 457 visas are being used),” she said.