“We are putting jobs first, we are putting Australians first … we are an immigration nation, but the fact remains that Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs,” the PM announced this week via Facebook. “We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians.”
The 457 visa program was designed for Australian or overseas employers to sponsor skilled overseas workers to work in the country temporarily. The program provided two main alternatives – business sponsorship and self-sponsorship.
It will now be replaced by two temporary visas, one for two-year stays and another for four-year stays. Under the new system, visas will require at least two years of previous work experience, better English language ability, stricter labour market testing and a criminal background check.
According to the Federal Government, the number of eligible jobs for the visas will be cut from 651 to 435, with application fees to increase. It also said that current 457 visa holders will not be affected by the changes.
The Business Council of Australia said the cancellation of the 457 program will help rebuild public confidence. “The capacity for businesses to hire temporary workers to fill genuine skill shortages has been an overall boon for Australia, allowing the economy to ride out volatile economic cycles – including in the mining industry,” said Jennifer Westacott, Business Council CEO.
“Businesses naturally prefer to hire Australians wherever possible – it’s easier, it’s cheaper and it means workers come ready with valuable local knowledge and skills. However, when there aren’t enough skilled workers available, a small number of temporary visas can be the deciding factor in whether or not a large investment goes ahead.
“Now that the Government has taken this decision, it is crucial that they work with employers to get the details right and ensure industry’s ability to fill genuine skills shortages is enhanced, not degraded.
“If we’re serious about getting Australians into skilled jobs, we must also revitalise our neglected vocational education and training system which has been treated like the poor cousin of the universities. We also need to look at the kinds of incentives that could encourage Australians to take up jobs in regional areas.”