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Australian government axes 457 work visa: experts react

Chris Wright and colleagues write in The Conversation (18.4.17) about the Turnbull government’s proposal to abolish the 457 skilled migrant visa and replace it with a new visa program, but the authors argue it might not have the desired affect on the labour market.’The Turnbull government is axing the 457 visa program and replacing it with a new Temporary Skill Shortage Visa. This comes after a history of problems with the 457 program, including uncovered abuse of workers.

‘The new scheme will be made up of two streams, one short term (issued for two years) and one medium term (issued for up to four years for “more focused occupation lists”). Both of these will be subject to labour market testing including a requirement for two years of work experience, a market salary rate assessment and a new non-discriminatory workforce test.

‘As of June 30, 2016 there were 94,890 primary 457 visa holders in Australia. This means the total number of primary 457 visa holders who are sponsored by an employer is equal to less than 1% of the Australian labour market. This proportion rises if international students, backpackers and other temporary migrants are included.

‘The number of eligible occupations for the new types of visas will be shortened by 216, with 268 available for the two year visa and 167 for the longer four year visa. Applicants will also now have to meet English language requirements and undergo a criminal check.

‘… A deficiency with these changes is that it fails to address a core problem in the regulation of the 457 visa. The two new visa streams will still rely on employer-conducted labour market testing to ascertain which jobs will be available to temporary migrant workers.

‘Although the occupational shortage list for the two new visa streams is being cut down by one third from over 600 occupations to just shy of 400, employers will still be required to provide evidence to the Department of Immigration of failed recruitment efforts. The problem with this is that it penalises decent employers by increasing the red tape on them.’

Malcolm Turnbull forges ‘values’ into political ploughshares

Michelle Grattan writes in The Conversation (20.4.17) about the Turnbull government’s proposed changes to immigration rules and Australian citizenship requirements, with critics arguing that the changes risk making Australian citizenship too hard to attain, and potentially creating a two-tier system of permanent residency.

‘Malcolm Turnbull’s spectacular elevation of “Australian values” raises questions about the Prime Minister’s own values. In particular, has he once again forfeited his political integrity?

‘This week’s targeting of foreign skilled workers and the new, tougher citizenship requirements smack of a desperate effort to tap into community concerns and insecurities, whether those fears are about jobs prospects, ethnic crime gangs, or terrorism.

‘A few years ago Turnbull, as a cabinet minister, would likely have challenged aspects of such measures if they were brought forward. Now, with Peter Dutton pushing him along, Turnbull is unashamedly exploiting anti-foreign and anti-Muslim sentiments as part of a wider strategy to try to combat bad polls, stop leakage to Pauline Hanson, wedge Bill Shorten, and gain some positive traction.’

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