Web developers, IT support, cable joiners removed from new 457 visa job list

With six removed completely, the 20-plus IT positions still available to foreign workers will be filled first by Australians under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's new Temporary Skill Shortage visa.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spent the past 12 hours filling the gaps in the announcement he made on Tuesday regarding abolishing the existing Temporary Work (Skilled) 457 visa.

The 457 visa currently used by about 95,000 foreign workers to gain employment in Australia will be replaced by the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa in March 2018.

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 posses a clean criminal history. Applicants must also be under the age of 45.

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

Under the new program, TSS visa holders can still perform the roles of chief executive officer, chief information officer, and managing director, as well as computer networks and systems engineer, database administrator, developer/programmer, ICT business analyst, ICT account manager, ICT business development manager, ICT customer support officer, ICT manager, ICT project manager, ICT quality assurance engineer, ICT sales representative, ICT security specialist, ICT support engineer, ICT systems test engineer, ICT trainer, hardware technician, network administrator, network analyst, software and applications programmer, software engineer, software tester, systems administrator, systems analyst, telecommunications engineer, telecommunications field engineer, telecommunications linesworker, telecommunications network engineer, telecommunications technical officer or technologist technologist, web administrator, and web designer.

Last year, the union representing communications workers criticised the placement of job advertisements in Ireland to recruit people to work on the rollout of the National Broadband Network. Under the new visa conditions, these jobs will go to Australian workers as a priority.

In a statement made by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), it was explained that the new visa is part of the government's reform package aimed at strengthening the "integrity and quality" of Australia's temporary and permanent employer sponsored skilled migration programs.

Speaking on ABC RN Breakfast on Wednesday, Turnbull touched on the inception of a national fund that will see businesses forced to pay a fee for each employee with a visa into a kitty that will be used to train Australian workers in a bid to fill skills shortages.

The visa charges are expected to be around AU$1,200 for the Short-Term stream and AU$2,400 for the Medium-Term stream, the prime minister explained.

It is expected the new levy will be announced in next month's federal Budget

Like others in Australia's startup scene, Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-CEO and co-founder of Atlassian, has said on many occasions that the biggest challenge the nation is facing is its lack of talent and believes bringing in overseas talent while Australia waits for its own students to be trained up is crucial.

Speaking on 2GB late Tuesday, Turnbull said that if the sort of skills Atlassian is seeking cannot be filled by Australians, the new system will enable them to be filled by people from overseas.

"But what Mike's going to have to do -- and look he is a very patriotic Australian, he will do this -- what he's got to do is demonstrate that he's tested the market, that he can't find Australians to do the work and I know that he will be doing everything he can to make sure that there are young Australians getting the skills, getting the training to do the work that he needs," Turnbull said.

With his "Putting Australian Workers First" slogan being compared to United States President Donald Trump's inauguration speech, Turnbull said every national leader should seek to put their own people first.

"Whether you're the Prime Minister of Australia or the President of the United States ... it's a commitment to protecting our national interests," he said.

"Bill Shorten had people coming out here on 457s to flip burgers at McDonalds."

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) is not excited by the government's visa overhaul, noting that many of its member companies rely on the flow of skilled 457 visa migrants to meet short-term demands of Australia's skills shortage.

"There is an urgent need to fill critical shortages now in jobs demanding cybersecurity, cloud, and data and analytics-related skills," AIIA CEO Rob Fitzpatrick said in a statement on Wednesday.

"ICT is Australia's fastest growing sector -- growing at a rate of 2 percent compared to 1.4 percent per annum growth for the workforce as a whole -- yet we are still losing skilled workers to a globally competitive market.

"While industry wasn't consulted prior to this announcement, we encourage the government to work with us on the details for the new policy."

In contrast, the Australian Computer Society (ACS) welcomed the visa changes announced by the federal government and labelled it a good measure to address genuine skills shortages in Australia.

At the beginning of 2016, the government kicked off the consultation process for what was then referred to as the Entrepreneur Visa, an initiative announced as part of the federal government's AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda to allow those from overseas to live and work among Australia's tech industry.

The consultation process and accompanying discussion paper was expected to tackle concerns including individual nomination procedure, third-party backing, length of stay, visa extension length, and whether the individual should be given permanent residency if their innovations prove to be a success.

"It is critical for Australia's prosperity and growth that we not only tap into the best entrepreneurial minds in Australia, but we also make it easier for talent from overseas to contribute to this country's innovative future," former Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne said at the time.

"We are also keen to retain those educated and talented people who have come to Australia and developed their knowledge base during their time in this country."

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