457 visa amendments pass parliament

The Australian Senate has today passed legislation that will crack down on misuse of the skilled worker visa scheme.

Following the passage of the 457 visa legislation through the House of Representatives yesterday on its final sitting day, the Australian Senate has today passed the amendments to the legislation for the skilled foreign worker visa 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.

The IT industry has defended its use of the 457 visa scheme, however, with Australian Information Industry Association CEO Suzanne Campbell saying that the scheme addresses the ongoing skills shortage in Australia.

"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.

The Senate today passed the legislation completely with 37 votes in favour and 29 against.

In the lower house, the legislation was passed 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.