The election of a coalition government on 7 September 2013 not only changed the political landscape in Australia, but is likely to change the migration landscape too.
The new Tony Abbott-led government favours a reduction in regulatory burdens for business, and publically supports skilled migration as central to Australia’s migration program.
Based on pre-election statements by Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison, the new Minister for the newly-named Department of Immigration and Border Protection (previously known as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship) it is hoped that the Abbott government will roll back or water down the 1 July 2013 changes to the 457 visa program introduced by the Migration Amendments (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Act 2013 (Amending Act), through either legislation or policy changes.
Importantly, it is also likely that the Abbott government will have a greater focus on compliance.
Repeal of 1 July changes to the 457 visa program
In the final sitting days of the Federal Parliament, the changes to the 457 visa were hotly debated by both houses.
During these debates, both Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott called into question the necessity of the changes, stating that they were “a regulatory burden…designed to choke the 457 (visa) scheme.”
As soon as Federal Parliament resumes, it is open to the Abbott government to introduce legislation to repeal some or all of the provisions of the 1 July 2013 changes to the 457 visa program. In reality, however, this is likely to be a long-term goal of the Abbott government as its ability to pass legislation through the Senate will be hampered by the Greens and Labor majority until mid-2014.
Alternatively, the Abbott government may seek to limit the impact of the 1 July 2013 changes through the creation of legislative instruments and associated departmental policy, neither of which require the approval of the Federal Parliament. For example, the Minister could choose to exclude specific occupations from Labour Market Testing. However, since 18 September 2013, when the Abbott government was sworn in, there have been no new releases of either legislative instructions or departmental policy regarding 457 visa program.
Increasing focus on compliance
The recent name change of the government department responsible for migration to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (“the Department”) signifies the Abbott government’s increased compliance focus, not only in relation to asylum seekers but across the board in the area of migration.
This increasing compliance focus was eluded to prior to the election when Scott Morrison asserted that the (Gillard) government’s focus should be on increasing funding to the existing compliance programs within the Department instead of changing the 457 visa program.
As an additional 300 Fair Work inspectors are now empowered under the Migration Act, it is important that all businesses ensure that they have systems in place to monitor the work rights of employees and their 457 sponsorship obligations.
We will continue to advise and guide our clients to ensure best practices are in place in the current compliance-focused environment. Of course, we will also continue to keep our clients updated on any legislative or policy changes made by the Abbott government which may impact your business.
 Speech “Scott Morrison MP” dated Wednesday 26 June 2013 to the House of Representatives regarding the Migration Amendments (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Act 2013.