457 Visa debate heats up

by Cameron Edmond,HCA02 Jul 2013

The House of Representatives recently passed The Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) 2013 Bill.

The bill requires sponsors participating in the Temporary Sponsored Work Visa Program to undertake labour marketing testing, provide enforceable undertakings between the minister and sponsors, and allow Fair Work inspectors to monitor compliance.

It also stipulates the requirements that must be met by sponsors, and extends the period in which particular visa holders may seek new sponsored employment.

Jenny Lambert, director of employment, education and training at Australian Chamber of Commerce & industry (ACCI) stated that the bill was problematic – punishing many for the mistakes of few. “It gives the Minister the power to shut down the skills pipeline to certain industries,” she said.

“Former Minister O'Connor was not able to point to any evidence of mass abuses,” Ron Kessels, special counsel at Fragonmen, said. “The current requirements on sponsors are working well and 457 visa use depends completely on the economic climate and unemployment.”

“Prime Minister Rudd is not off to a good start on the commitment he made [26 June] to re-engage with business,” Wilhelm Harnisch, CEO of Master Builders Australia, added.

While not in agreement with the changes, Kessels sees where the supporters are coming from. “It is hard to argue against a simple proposition that says that jobs should go to Australians first. This has instant appeal,” he said. “However, this fails to look at Australia as part of the global economy … how can we be part of a world economy yet deny entry to the world’s best talent?”

Lambert stated that if enacted the bill would “seriously restrict the ability of employers to efficiently fill gaps with skilled workers, especially professional health workers and skilled trades workers not found in some regions or parts of the economy”.

Further concerns were raised by Lambert over the speed at which the bill has been passed. She sees the demand for a late-night vote in the Senate as “abuse of parliamentary process borne from a political agenda”.

“Skilled workers are the cornerstone of industry and the productive powerhouse of the Australian economy. At a time when we should be doing all we can to ensure that business has the skills it needs to work efficiently and productively, government is making it increasing difficult to fill gaps in skilled labour supply,” said Lambert.

What are your views on the amendments?


  • by Angela Brown 2/07/2013 2:58:25 PM

    We have enough people to train and fill the cap of shortages, too many business are using overseas student, too pay them below the poverty line and they don't have to paid for tax and superannuation enough is "enough " used Aussie and train Aussie for jobs

  • by SHGM 2/07/2013 4:09:58 PM

    The 457 visa regime is for skilled workers only. It is NOT a vehicle for employing students. Users of the system are required to participate in training of Australians. The subclass 457 visa regime is demand driven, in that there must be an identified role to be filled, is therefore does therefore not contribute to unemployment. The regime has existing safeguards that require visa holders to be paid the "market salary rate". Where this is not done, there is existing legislation to sanction non-compliance by employers.
    Many of the proposed changes will not impact upon employers complying with the spirit of the legislation and will clarify some existing uncertainties in the legislation. However, the introduction of labour market testing for lower skilled occupations will frustrate the intention of the scheme to enable employers to quickly fill an identified labour shortage. The reintroduction of a fixed number of applications by sponsors will create an impossible impediment to employers who will now be required to speculate about the their future labour demands and anticipated skills shortages three to six years into the future.
    The changes are not all bad, but the bad elements demonstrate a lack of understanding of the design and intention of the visa category to allow skills shortages to be quickly filled. A review and rethink of some of the changes is necessary for the subclass 457 visa regime to continue to function as designed.

  • by TommyW 2/07/2013 4:12:22 PM

    Think that Angela's comments point to the potential shortages of skills in Australia - spelling and grammar being the main culprits!

    In all seriousness though, obviously the current system has it's flaws, but is there much point in slightly altering a bill that will ultimately have no profound affect once loopholes are exploited again? - Australia needs to address the cause of the problem, that there are not enough Australians learning the skills needed to plug the gap being filled by skilled migrants. Until that changes, Australia will depend upon migrants to fill those highly-skilled and in-demand roles, you cannot expect employers to take the hit on a sub-standard workforce for no reason other than patriotism, this is business.

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