Canberra to hear out tech sector on 457 visa reform

Australia's Innovation Minister Arthur Sinodinos has said he is happy to engage in a dialogue with the country's tech sector to avoid unintended consequences that may come as a result of the new Temporary Skill Shortage visa.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Arthur Sinodinos has told ABC radio he does not want see any unintended consequences trickle into Australia's tech sector as a result of the abolition of the current 457 visa program.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced he was scrapping the existing Temporary Work (Skilled) 457 visa on Tuesday, replacing it with a new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa in March 2018.

Currently, about 95,000 foreign workers use the 457 visa to gain employment in Australia.

The TSS visa program will comprise of two visa classes, Short-Term and Medium-Term, which will cover a foreign worker for two and four years respectively, with the latter reserved for more "critical" skills shortages. Additionally, applicants will be subjected to tightened English language and work experience tests, and must possess a clean criminal history. Applicants must also be under the age of 45.

Under the new visa scheme, 200 job categories have been reduced, impacting a handful of technology-related employment opportunities, including electronic engineering technicians, ICT support and test engineers, ICT support technicians, web developers, telecommunications cable jointers, and telecommunications technicians.

Speaking on ABC RN Drive on Thursday night, Sinodinos said he expects there to be further processes involved in rolling out the new visa schemes.

"I certainly will be encouraging the tech community to communicate with me about their issues to make sure that we're not throwing the baby out with the bath water in making these changes," he said.

"But please understand, every so often with government programs you have to go through a process of looking at them because they can get flabby over time, they can become outdated, there were circumstances over the last few years where there were blowouts in areas where clearly the skill levels had to be questioned."

With debate among the tech community already around some of the new measures, the minister said he is happy to engage in a dialogue with them.

"What I'm saying to the tech sector is that we don't want any unintended consequences with this and therefore I will engage in a dialogue with them to make sure we are not throwing the baby out with the bath water," he explained.

Focused on not throwing the proverbial baby out, Sinodinos said the specifics of the new visa scheme will take some time to bed down.

"But what's important about this is to understand that these changes will sharpen and make those programs more effective, but we're not throwing the baby out with the bath water, we're going to make sure that we need that are in short supply in Australia, particularly those skills that can supplement what we do here will still be able to be supplied through these sorts of arrangements," he told ABC.

"But at the same time we're putting an obligation on ourselves as a government and as a community to put more focus on training and providing the upgrading of skills of our own domestic workforce so they can fill more of these jobs."

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