SIDNEY – Australia’s government has cracked down on foreign worker visas and adopted an “Australians first” approach to skilled migration, scrapping the controversial 457 visa program and announcing a much stricter replacement.
Two new temporary skills shortage visas will impose tougher English language tests and stricter labour market testing, and require at least two years of work experience and a mandatory police check.
The decision to abolish 457 temporary work visas is presented by Malcolm Turnbull as putting the interests of Australians first.
In an extraordinary piece of timing, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement came hours before US President Donald Trump prepared to unveil a “buy American, hire American” executive order that will crack down on guest worker visas and require more US goods to be purchased locally – putting in to practice the “America First” rhetoric of the presidential election.
Both the Turnbull and Trump policy decisions will appeal to the nationalist wings of their respective centre-right parties.
In Australia, the number of jobs eligible for the two-year and four-year visa streams has been cut dramatically, with 216 occupations – ranging from antique dealer to fisheries officer to shoe maker – axed from the old list of 651 professions eligible for a 457 visa.
But nurses and cooks, for example, who are commonly brought in on 457s, will remain eligible for a visa under the new scheme.
“We are putting jobs first, we are putting Australians first,” Mr Turnbull said. “We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains that Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs.
“Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs, so we are abolishing the 457 visa, the visa that brings temporary foreign workers into our country. We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians.”
Mr Turnbull said “The government would work with companies to ensure they met labour market testing requirements, and warned “there will be a particular focus on companies that have an unnecessarily high proportion of 457 or foreign workers in jobs as well. There will be a number of ways in which we can clamp down.”
The main countries from which 457 visa holders come are India, Britain, China and Ireland. The labour market testing requirement will not be mandatory where Australia has obligations, as it does with China, under a free-trade agreement.
By James Massola – smh.com.au