Australia 457 Visa News 2017
It was just announced by the Turnbull government that changes have been made to the 457 visa for skilled foreign workers, bringing down the number of days they can stay in the country once their employment has come to an end, from 90 days to just 60 days.
Mr Peter Dutton, the minister for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, announced the latest development this afternoon, and will come into effect this Saturday, on the 19th of November.
According to Mr Dutton, the change would help in making sure that the 457 visa program keeps its purpose of being a supplement to, instead of being a substitute for Australian workers, as well as lessening the possibility of 457 visa holders, who are only allowed to work for an approved sponsor and who are not entitled to get unemployment benefits, eventually engaging into informal employment arrangements, and then ending up being exploited.
The Australian government, according to Mr Dutton, was committed to making sure that the workers of Australia are prioritised, and that the possibility of exploitation is reduced.
”This change is about reducing competition from overseas workers for those Australians who are actively looking for work,” he stated.
”The government values the contribution made by the many skilled persons who work in Australia on 457 visas, but where there is an Australian worker ready, willing and able to perform a role it is the Government’s policy that they have priority,” he went on to say.
The approach of the present government was compared by Mr Dutton with that of the former Labor government’s. Back in June 2013, the period that 457 visa holders can stay in the country once their employment has ceased, was increased from 28 days to 90 days.
”When Labor’s Shadow Minister for Employment Brendan O’Connor was immigration minister he extended the time from 28 days to 90 days citing a need to allow 457 workers more time ‘to look for another job’,” explained Mr Dutton.
”This is yet another example of Labor selling Australian workers short,” he continued on to say.
”Labor’s mismanagement saw the Subclass 457 program grow from around 68,000 primary visa holders at the end of June 2010 to more than 110,000 when they were removed from office,” explained Mr Dutton. ”In comparison, under the Coalition the number of 457 visa holders in Australia has fallen by around 13,000, while over the same period almost half a million new jobs have been created for Australian workers.”
The reduction of days are going to apply to all 457 visas that will be granted on or after the 19th of November of this year. This change, said Mr Dutton, was gazetted last month.
95,700 skilled migrants in the country are 457 visa holders as of September 30th. 76,400 are either secondary visa holders, members of the family, or those who accompany them.
But is it a retrograde step?
The 457 visa changes are considered to be a retrograde step that is seen to increase foreign workers’ vulnerability. This, according to a leading expert in employment migration.
Ms Joanna Howe, a Senior Lecturer from the University of Adelaide, stated that these measures do not go with the recommendations of an independent review back in 2010, led by Ms Barbara Deegan, then the Fair Work commissioner. It was recommended that the period be increased to at least 90 days from 30 days.
The then Labor government followed these recommendations back in 2013 and increased the number of days to 90.
Today’s announcement, stated Dr Howe, is going to end up in 457 visa holders to have only a small room for movement in the Australian labout market. Not only that, but it will also widen the scope of power employers have over foreign workers.
”It effectively gives employers the dual role of both employer and immigration sponsor,” explained Dr Howe. ”By having 2 hats, which they don’t have with a local worker, the employer’s power is increased to a point where they can exert pressure over a worker to get them to do whatever they want them to do.”
The 457 Visa System
She believes that the issue with the 457 visa system was that the covered list of occupations extend over the areas where there is a genuine shortage of employment.
Dr Howe went on to say that if the Coalition really meant to increase the opportunities for workers in Australia, they really need to give all their attention to areas where there is a genuine shortage, and reduce the number of occupations made eligible for 457 visas from over 600 of them.
The cutback in the list of occupations and the 90 days have both been recommendations of a government-commissioned review in 2014.
”As it is 457 visa holders already have little job security,” stated Dr Howe. ”This will make them far more vulnerable.”
She wonders how the government can launch its migrant worker task force led by Mr Alan Fels, and claim that it is concerned about worker exploitation, but increase substantial vulnerability with this all in the same month? Dr Howe believes that it is incoherent and does not make sense at all.
While Dr Howe has a problem with the language Bill Shorten uses around foreign workers stealing jobs of its citizens, she believes he was right that the real issue with the 457 visa system was the regulation being insufficient.
The Labor Government’s Rhetoric ‘Australia first’
Bill Shorten, on the other hand, still continues to champion his ‘Australia First’ rhetoric on foreign workers as he visits regional Queensland, and highlights the legislation introduced by Labor when it was last in government to crack down on 457 visas.
The Opposition Leader singled out Mr George Christensen, the local LNP member, for attack while visiting Komatsu in Mackay, located in northern Queensland. Komatsu is an earthmoving equipment supplier.
Yesterday, it was announced by Mr Christensen that he would be sending a letter of request to the ministers of Employment and Immigration, the Deputy Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister, that there be no further issuing of 457 visas in the regions of Central and North Queensland as there currently are high unemployment rates there.
Mr Christensen was accused by Mr Shorten of doing one thing in Canberra and another thing in Mackay.
”When Labor toughened up the visa rules back in 2013, Malcolm Turnbull, Peter Dutton, and George Christensen all voted for slacker rules,” said Mr Shorten. ”We do not mind if the government comes on board with what we are talking about, but let’s also be clear: there will be some role for overseas people to come and do skilled jobs which we don’t have the skills to do.”
”So George is going down 1 path, he just wants to muddy up the picture so he can talk tough,” Mr Shorten said. ”I just wish George would vote for better standards in our labour markets.”
What’s the status of the 457 Visa’s program?
The number of 457 visas that are being granted has significantly decreased since the appointment of Mr Shorten as employment minister. However, Labor is saying that this is because of the mining boom coming to an end.
Mr Shorten is a strong supporter of Labor standing up for workers. ”I have never seen George Christensen out there backing an increase in the minimum wage, never seen George Christensen or Malcolm Turnbull out there backing Labor toughening up these visa laws, as we did,” Mr Shorten continued on to say.
Mr Shayne Neumann, the shadow minister for Immigration, stated that there were at least a million individuals in the country who are on temporary work visas.
”If you were to say to Australians there is a million people on temporary work visas in this country and they are looking for a job, they would be saying I want a job for me and my family,” said Mr Neumann.
The changes that were made by Labor back in 2013 meant that they could take a look at what was going on in the Australian labour market back then, said Mr O’Connor.
”The reason we could do that is that we increased the inspectors tenfold at least, and what that meant is that those Fair Work ombudsmen could go into workplaces and identify where there was exploitation happening,” he explained. ”But also where there was misuse, that is a use of a particular occupation when they were not on the shortlist.”
”Let us look at the shortlist today,” Mr O’Connor said. ”As Bill referred to we have carpenters, we have nurses, we have childhood educators that are on that list and yet we know there are increasingly unemployed carpenters, unemployed nurses, so we are very clear, there are locals who have got the skills and cannot fill those jobs because they are being replaced by 457 workers.”
He added further, ”And also, even when there is a skills shortage, what is the government doing over the medium and longer term, what is our medium and long term ambition to equip Australians with the skills in the emerging demand.”
”That is not happening either,” Mr O’Connor said. ”128,000 apprentice places cut by the Turnbull government.”
He also went on to say that 3 years ago, Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton, and George Christensen voted against the restrictions and protections that the Labor has put in place, but now they would like to push with these new reforms. What Mr O’Connor would like to happen now is to also give priority to Australians so that everyone can get a fair chance at looking for employment.
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