Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced the government will abolish 457 visas for foreign workers.
IMMIGRATION Minister Peter Dutton has defended a government decision to scrap the 457 visa program for temporary foreign workers and replace it with a tighter regime.
He sees political uplift in the move as Australians consider the implication for jobs.
“I think Australians would accept the default position for business to seek out an Australian for a job before you employ somebody from overseas,” he told Nine Network on Wednesday.
The federal government had been busy with “boats and all the rest of it” but now the time had come to tighten the visa system.
But the co-founder of successful technology company Atlassian, Mike Cannon-Brookes, says 457 visas are essential. He’s told The Australian anything that makes bridging the talent gap more difficult is bad for the country.
But Mr Dutton questioned Atlassian’s role in the in the local market.
“Are they going into schools looking for young kids to go and work in jobs? Are they employing mature aged workers who have found themselves out of a job elsewhere?”
Mr Dutton also confirmed the May budget will include an announcement about businesses contributing to a training fund, which has already been dubbed a ‘foreign worker tax’.
“It’s about making sure that we can train up Australian workers for Australian jobs,” he said.
Australian Industry Group chief Innes Willox said the existing 457 visa system was opaque and open to abuse.
“This is going to be much more transparent,” he told ABC radio. But he expected some businesses will have to pay more under the changes. Under the government’s plan, the 457 visa will be replaced initially by a new temporary two-year visa designed to recruit the “best and the brightest”.
A list of 650 occupation classifications that qualify for a temporary visa will be cut by 200 and the new visas will require applicants to have previous work experience.
A second four-year visa will require a high standard of English language skills as well as a criminal check.
The new two-year visa won’t be a pathway to permanent residency, but anyone currently in Australia on a 457 visa will not be affected by the new arrangements.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said restructuring the program provided a chance to hit the “reset button” on temporary skilled migration. It would also give business the confidence to continue to access skills from overseas.
But unions have dismissed the new arrangements as “tinkering at the edges”.