Turnbull's 457 visa plan isn't Trump's wall - it's his bouffant

Sinking souffle: Malcolm Turnbull's plan leaves most of the major 457 visa industries eligible.

Sinking souffle: Malcolm Turnbull's plan leaves most of the major 457 visa industries eligible.

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OPINION

Sure enough, Malcolm Turnbull got the headlines he wanted: “457 visas dumped”, “Australian jobs first”, etc.

In chorus, News Corp tabloids painted this as a Donald Trump-esque move, while a conga line of the marginal right claimed credit. And ho, what a coincidence! It came a day before the US’s America-first visa crackdown.

But while the Tele’s “Make Me Great Again” headline may cut straight to the PM’s political motivation, those claiming a crackdown on 457s is Trump-style xenophobia are barking up the wrong tree. The program had too often become a rort. 

Under the 457 working visa scheme, labour market tests existed for many industries – an employer needed to show there was a lack of skilled workers to fill their job needs, before they looked overseas.

Given this was a skilled labour initiative set up to fill skills shortages, that’s just common sense. If there wasn’t a shortage, flying in a foreign worker wasn’t justified.

Trouble is, exemptions to this labour market testing were granted to so many jobs the list became ridiculous.

Unemployment is rife in Wollongong but walk past a building site and you’re expected to believe, from the workforce on site, that we don’t have any tilers, window fitters, plumbers or interior fitout specialists.

Many employers simply preferred 457 workers, particularly when they arrived readymade via labour hire importers.

There are plenty of sensible reasons for cracking down on 457s – it’s just not clear whether these are what’s motivating the PM. 

And this is where Turnbull’s plan is looking like a sinking souffle. Builders, chefs, hairdressers and programmers remain eligible for the new work visa incarnation, the opposition says, and less than nine per cent of foreign workers on 457 visas would have their occupations excluded.

Turnbull’s not building Trump’s wall – he’s just puffing up the bouffant. 

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