457 visa changes pass lower house

457 visa changes pass lower house

Summary: Proposed changes to Australia's skilled migration system have passed the lower house of parliament, as the IT industry urges the government to ease off their businesses.

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With new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the top job again, the House of Representatives today passed amendments to immigration law for the skilled foreign worker visa scheme that aim to crack down on industries, such as IT, that have been said to be misusing the scheme.

The legislation will require employers to demonstrate that they went to market in Australia for local workers before hiring overseas workers using 457 visas.

When announcing the changes, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard singled out the IT industry as one of the biggest abusers of the scheme, stating that the IT industry accounted for 5,800 workers brought into Australia in seven months, while in 2011, there were only 4,500 IT undergraduates.

It was reported earlier in the day that Rudd had pulled the legislation, but this afternoon, the lower house passed the legislation 73 votes to 72, with Labor picking up support from Independent MPs Tony Windsor, Bob Katter, Craig Thomson, and Andrew Wilkie and Greens MP Adam Bandt.

The legislation will still need to pass the Senate, and the Senate may ultimately sit on Friday in order to pass all the legislation that the government is seeking to pass prior to the election. Rudd has not indicated whether the September 14 election date has changed since taking over as prime minister this morning.

As he resumed the role of prime minister, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) CEO Suzanne Campbell said that the IT industry continues to support the 457 visa scheme.

"457 visas solve the immediate skills shortage issue local organisations are facing. The longer-term solution to this issue is systemic changes in ICT education and skills development. This will take time, and the industry must not be stalled in the meantime," she said.

Campbell said that Rudd should shift focus away from targeting the IT industry in Australia.

"The combination of excessive and at times heavy-handed regulation faced by the ICT industry in Australia, the costs associated with this, and the singling out of the ICT sector on visa issues, tax, and pricing must stop for confidence to be restored," Campbell said.

Campbell initially fronted the IT pricing inquiry representing IT giants, including Apple, Adobe, and Microsoft, but repeatedly throughout the hearing said she could not respond on behalf of those companies. The companies were ultimately compelled to appear before the inquiry themselves.

Campbell said today that the government needs to demonstrate its confidence in the IT sector.

"If Australia is to be the leading digital economy it aspires to be, government must demonstrate its confidence in the ICT sector taking that vision forward. This includes a focused commitment to the important role of the NBN, and continued effort in driving take-up and use by business and government."

Topics: Government, Government AU

About

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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4 comments
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  • I'm guessing...

    ...that Mr. Rudd is going to want to delay the election as long as possible.
    John L. Ries
  • Good

    All this change is, is a test to see if there are any Aussies that can fill the position BEFORE the company tries using a 457 to fill it. 457's are meant to ease skill shortages, not provide cheap workers.
    Tinman_au
    • Don't be ignorant

      If we want more jobs, there must be more people willing to hire us. The blunt truth is that doing business in Australia is utterly difficult due to incredibly high labor cost and taxation, given such a small domestic market. This makes Australia an unattractive place to invest (except for the mining industry). But now even the mining industry is not making money due to slower Chinese growth and the mining tax.

      There are two solutions. One is that we prove ourselves more efficient than overseas workers and thus offsetting the cost in hiring us. Two is more government tax breaks.

      Visa or not is not the solution to this problem.
      michael_uom
      • Does anybody seriously think the 457 program is not being abused????

        How is it one day companies are performing functions using Australian workers and the next they outsource entire functions to suppliers who bring in plane loads of 457. 457 is intended for skill shortages not cost cutting!!!!

        Having worked for numerous leading global vendors I can assure the 457 program is being regularly abused. I have seen people use the program as a quick method to bypass normal migration, senior managers with skills below that in the Australia market sent here regularly, senior managers using the program as a clear way to cut cost and mis-using 457 training fund to train offshore people... If you do not believe, go ask any local who works for the likes of the Indian offshore providers ( this is common knowledge In the industry!!! ). All you need to do is walk into the offices of some of these providers and it feels like little India or little china, yet we have a steady supply of fairly cheap graduates who cannot even find a job!!!

        For the record even china, India, Indonesia and other countries in the region regularly monitor the same. In fact they. Run office inspections to validate compliance. God forbid we did that in oz.
        Mars77