New laws to strengthen the 457 temporary visa system in Australia will ensure employers only use the scheme to fill genuine skill shortages, and look local first before hiring workers from overseas, it is claimed. Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O’Connor said legislation that has passed through Parliament would protect local workers and ensure young people did not miss out on job opportunities.
‘In addition to the rorting we have seen of the 457 visa system, since this Bill has been before the Parliament we’ve seen even more examples, including rorting in the IT industry, exploited workers in the automotive industry and local workers being displaced by people on 457s,’ he explained. ‘The government supports the use of the 457 temporary employment scheme, where it is used to fill genuine skill shortages in the labour market, and these new laws will ensure it is only used in this manner consistent with Australia’s international trade obligations,’ he added.
‘Most Australians would expect that employers look local first before hiring workers from overseas, and these legislative changes will ensure that occurs where it’s not already happening,’ he pointed out.
The changes have been a major political issue and the opposing political party refused to support the new legislation but O’Connor said that was akin to not supporting Australian jobs. Indeed, opposition leader Tony Abbott has said that the new changes could be reversed after the general election if his party wins power as its policy is to make the 457 visa ‘the mainstay of immigration policy’. He has promised to restore access and remove some of the blockages to 457 visas.
While the law has been passed there is still opposition to the new labour market testing that will be introduced. O’Connor said that it will be straightforward, requiring employers only to place a job advertisement and show evidence they have done so. ‘Employers facing genuine skill shortages already take steps to ensure there are no locals available to fill these positions,’ said O’Connor.
Labour market testing will also be extended to those cases where there was a redundancy or retrenchment and will have to be undertaken across all skill shortage areas and in other areas specified by the Minister. ‘By ensuring employers provide proof that they are all looking locally first, they will be placed on a level playing field, ensuring that one employer is not getting an unfair advantage over another,’ added O’Connor.
He said that the new laws will also protect overseas visa holders from exploitation, guaranteeing the same pay and conditions as local workers, and extending their visas from 28 to 90 days, after their initial employment ceases.
‘This will allow workers more time to get their families affairs into order if they’re moving home, or to look for another job,’ he explained. The law also gives greater powers to 300 Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors to ensure employers are complying with the scheme as well as equal pay and conditions, and meeting other visa conditions.
The role of The Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration, a tripartite body comprising unions, industry and government representatives, will be enhanced to provide advice to the Minister and provide oversight of the government’s temporary work programmes.
JULY 1, 2013