Minister for immigration Scott Morrison has flagged changes to the current 457 visa program which will loosen the existing labour importation rules, following a new report.
It came in the wake of a swathe of claims that the 457 program was being rorted by some Australian businesses, who underpaid workers by thousands, or those brought over on the scheme were no longer working with their sponsor.
The new report, known as Robust New Foundations outlined what it terms improvements to the current program.
The review looked into the levels of non-compliance, the current framework and whether existing requirements balanced against the needs of business, the viability of deregulation, and the appropriateness of the current compliance and sanctions.
The independent review into the program has recommended 22 changes to the program.
“The report identified 22 recommendations that strive to achieve a balance between encouraging flexibility and productivity with strengthening the integrity of the 457 programme and ensuring that overseas workers do not displace Australians,” according to senator Michaelia Cash.
However the report did call for the abolishment of Labour Market Testing (LMT), which same have stated as tantamount to removing the need to local for Australian workers first.
When it came to training Australians, the report stated that “we found there was strong support for the principle that sponsors should make a contribution to training Australians in return for being able to sponsor 457 visa holders”.
However it recommended that existing training benchmarks be abolished and instead of training Australians companies simply pay an annual contribution of around $400 per 457 visa holder to go towards training Australian workers.
English language skill requirements will also be loosened, with Morrison dubbing current regulations as “unnecessarily restrictive”.
The report was welcomed by the AMMA, who said it flagged the removal of “cumbersome and unnecessary bureaucracy”.
“The resource industry’s use of skilled migration has declined in recent years, but where we do employ international specialists, their expertise and skills are often critical to safety, performance and supporting a large number of aligned Australian jobs,” Steve Knott, AMMA chief executive, said.
“It is encouraging to have our Immigration Minister publicly acknowledge how skilled migration supports both economic growth and employment opportunities for the Australian workforce, after an unfortunate politicisation of the skilled migration debate under the previous government.”
Regarding LMTs, Knott said “we have seen major resource industry projects wait up to four years to secure a Labour Agreement to cover a small number of valuable and necessary international workers. The current negotiating process is extremely difficult and time-consuming”.
“This has a very real impact on job opportunities for Australians. Skilled overseas workers have never been used to replace Australian jobs, rather they complement the skills available here with new global expertise and support projects delivering great value to Australia’s economy.
“Skilled migrants support short-to-medium term skills shortages when Australians are unable to fill such roles.”
However the report, and its recommendations, were slammed by the CFMEU, who called on the government to abolish Labour Marketing Testing the program, with CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor stating "in the only analysis of its kind in the country, CFMEU-commissioned research found that Labour Market Testing works”.
"Our analysis of the first six months of its operation shows that 457 Visa applications were rejected at twice the rate when employers were required to look local first.
"In the job categories where it applied, the number of rejections of 457 Visa applications doubled – giving local qualified applicants a fair go instead.
"Scrapping LMT at a time of record unemployment would be an unconscionable decision, particularly for young people facing the worst jobs market in 17 years. In the current climate, the LMT requirement should be expanded to cover all job categories."