Changes to temporary visa arrangements will highlight an important issue

Reviews important: Chris Lamont says changes to 457 visa arrangements are timely because it will focus attention on an important issue. Picture: Greg Ellis

Reviews important: Chris Lamont says changes to 457 visa arrangements are timely because it will focus attention on an important issue. Picture: Greg Ellis

CHANGES to temporary visa arrangements will help highlight important issues.

lllawarra Business Chamber executive director Chris Lamont said while many industries are likely to be impacted ongoing reviews are important.

Mr Lamont said in the Illawarra the accommodation and hospitality, ICT, construction and agriculture sectors were most likely to be affected.

“Accommodation and hospitality are big ones. The university has people on 457 visas who are experts in various areas. Some of the farming sectors around the region with machinery and some of the related areas around the maintenance of machinery. And you have the harvest trail which is separate all together to the 457. Without some of the migrant labour, particularly for our farming sector, we would be in strife. We saw that with the Backpacker Tax late last year.”

In other industries such as mining the downturn in 457 visas being employed is reflective of a downturn in infrastructure coinciding with the end of the resources boom. “The system works. But I think it is appropriate to review it,” Mr Lamont said.

And while they will have an impact on many businesses changes to arrangements with the present 457 visa program will help highlight the importance of addressing skilled labour shortages and promote measures to support greater employment participation.

Mr Lamont said businesses in regional areas have been increasingly frustrated by a lack of skilled labour. And programs like the 457 visa have provided valuable assistance to fill pressing skill shortages. 457 visa holders represent less than one per cent of the Australian labour force and those workers tend to provide skills that business require and are unable to secure within the domestic labour market. Among the problems businesses have is finding people willing to work certain jobs and certain hours. “There need to be obligations, particularly on young people, to try and look for work. Because a lot of our employers are saying young people simply don’t want to work some hours.”

Mr Lamont said it was real shame because for many careers that (working unsociable hours) is how you get the experience you need to go on and do other things. “It is appropriate and timely to make changes to 457 visa and these reforms should support the ongoing integrity of the system. Addressing skills shortages and providing more employment opportunities for Australians is a pressing issue requiring greater attention from all levels of government”

Mr Lamont said a recent NSW Business Chamber business conditions survey revealed how skill shortages are a reality for too many Australian businesses. 

Close to 24 percent of respondents said that they did not have access to suitably skilled staff.

Mr Lamont said contrary to what some may think employing someone on a temporary visa did not really cost less.

“There is a suggestion that it is cheaper to employ someone on a 457 but that is an absolute nonsense,” he said.

“If you employ someone on a 457 you have to contribute two per cent of the total payroll of your business to an industry training fund or one per cent to demonstrate the training of employees int he business who are Australian citizens/residents. If you can get an Australian worker in a dollar sense you are better off.”

Mr Lamont said businesses invest a great deal of time and effort in locating, hiring and training suitable staff.

But when that  fails a 457 visa can assist.

“It is critical that the new visa arrangements ensure Australian employed first but where necessary businesses have access to skilled labour critical to their operations and business growth,” he said.

Mr Lamont said if a change protects the integrity of the program that was a good thing

As for those already in Australia the Government has said that the 94,890 skilled migrants presently on 457 visas would be unaffected and still be able for permanent residency at the end of the four years.

“Measures such as 457 visas are by their very nature short-term measures. More effort is required to address skill shortages and  promote employment participation, particularly for young Australians in regional areas like the Illawarra,” Mr Lamont said.

Information about changes to the 457 visa arrangements can been found at https://www.border.gov.au/WorkinginAustralia/Documents/abolition-replacement-457.pdf.

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