Government set to 'clean up' visa scheme

by Iain Hopkins26 Feb 2013

The Federal government has announced a “crackdown” on approving skilled-worker visas – it says the changes are necessary in order to curb widespread rorting of the system.

But the announcement has sparked a backlash from employer groups, who say the response is a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to fear mongering by unions who say migrants are taking jobs from skilled Australians. Industry groups say that increased visa restrictions come at a time when acute skills shortages are putting productivity at risk.

Immigration Minister Brendon O’Connor announced the rules relating to skilled migration and grants for visas will be tightened, after the Department of Immigration and Citizenship received a report from an advisory council set up to assess the current system. O’Conner announced at the weekend that the rules would be tightened in seven key ways – namely by raising the English-language requirements for workers and enforcing more training obligations on employers.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott told The Australian that business could not afford "ad hoc, knee-jerk reactions" that were not based on working collaboratively. “We really run the risk in an election year of killing the goose that laid the golden egg here,” Westacott is quoted. She also pointed to new Reserve Bank research which found that resources exports created about 500,000 jobs across every major industry in the past seven years. Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox also weighed in, commented that union concerns are misplaced. “There's no evidence of systemic rorting as has been alleged,” he said. “There is no evidence this program is being used as a gateway to permanent residency. That's a scare campaign.”

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