Home World Business Business welcomes 457 visa changes, warns on red tape

Business welcomes 457 visa changes, warns on red tape

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Sweeping changes to the skilled migration have been broadly welcomed by business although there are some concerns over new language requirements and implementation.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said today said the 457 visa system, which was supposed to address skills shortages, was ripe for reform.

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Announcing it will abolish the controversial 457 visa program for temporary skilled migrants, the Turnbull government has adopted a new “Australians First” approach to skilled migration. (Malcolm Turnbull/Facebook)

“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.
 
“Ending that visa category, adding limits and more clearly defining its successor visas will help draw the focus back to the program’s primary purpose: addressing the pockets of skill shortages that persist in our economy.”

Mr Willox said new integrity measures such as requiring a tax file number were also welcome.
 
“The new approach to the Skilled Occupation List will also assist in identifying genuine skill shortages and guarding against often opportunistic spikes in applications for vague or non-essential skill categories.

Mr Willox said changes to language testing would need to be monitored to “ensure they do not adversely impact on access to skilled workers in the lower skilled categories”.

“Many of our workplaces are multi-lingual and a working knowledge of English is sufficient in many cases to meet both operational and safety requirements,” he said.

Mr Willox said the program deserved support from all sides of politics. 

Hospitality is one of the biggest users of 457 visas and John Hart, chief executive of industry group Restaurant and Catering Australia said the new scheme struck the right balance between removing a pathway to permanent residency for lower-skilled workers while still allowing the industry access to temporary staff.

The government will scrap 457 visas. The government will scrap 457 visas.  

“We can still bring in cooks, albeit on the shorter form of visa, but we need to have those cooks so we can have skilled people to train up apprentices,” Mr Hart said. “It’s a pretty good balance.

“The area that probably presents the biggest glitch is where you’ve got the two year visa that can be renewed onshore. We just need to make sure that that’s not a red-tape nightmare.”

Innes Willox, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, has backed the government's overhaul. Innes Willox, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, has backed the government’s overhaul. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Hugh Stephens, director of Dialogue Consulting and the Aussie founder of Instagram scheduling tool Schedugram, said it was still not clear what the new visa class would mean for companies hiring technical staff.

“This uncertainty is going to make doing business in Australia more complex, and increase the costs of doing business for startups that have better ways to spend their capital,” he said.

We just need to make sure that that’s not a red-tape nightmare.

Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive John Hart

Elizabeth Proust chairman of peak body the Australian Institute of Company Directors as well as major companies in Nestle Australia and the Bank of Melbourne said the overhaul appeared positive but the detail would need to be examined

“It sounds like it deals with issues employers have been concerned about,” she said.

“Australia for almost all of our history has been built on a successful migration program and I would want to see that continue with the right balance of skills and backgrounds being brought in to the country to supplement the skills we do have.

“There’s been concern in the past that there were too many chefs and hairdressers but that’s been closed down, so it’s about making sure we’re matching the gaps with skills from people offshore”.

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