Australian Assistant Immigration Minister – 457 Visa reforms to boost integrity and address genuine skill shortages
The Government will act on recommendations of a recent independent review of the 457 visa programme to strengthen integrity, ensure that Australian workers have priority and support employers with genuine skill shortages.
The Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, commissioned the review in 2014. The panel was tasked with examining compliance within the 457 programme by sponsors of overseas workers to ensure that the scheme was being used as intended – to address skill shortages which cannot be met from the Australian labour market.
The review panel consulted extensively across Australia – meeting with over 140 stakeholders and receiving 189 written submissions, including from businesses, unions, industry bodies and academics.
Key recommendations of the review include an increased focus on targeting employers who seek to misuse the programme, greater transparency around the department’s sanctions processes and proactive sharing of information between key government agencies.
“The Government will introduce a new penalty making it unlawful for sponsors to receive payment in return for sponsoring a worker for a 457 visa,” Minister Cash said.
“The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will work collaboratively with the Australian Taxation Office to cross check records to ensure that workers on 457 visas are receiving their nominated salary and are not undercutting Australian workers. Further, we will proactively prosecute and name and shame offenders exploiting overseas workers and misusing the programme.”
The Government will ensure businesses that utilise the 457 programme appropriately will incur less regulation and cost, without compromising on the necessary safeguards that underpin the scheme.
“We will reduce the regulatory burden for those businesses with a proven track record by streamlining sponsorship requirements,” Minister Cash said.
“An important recommendation which is subject to further consultation is the proposal to replace the current training benchmark provisions introduced by Labor which are complex, costly, and susceptible to misuse.”
“Our intention is to better direct training funds derived from 457 sponsors to ensure that Australians are trained in those occupations where we are currently experiencing skills shortages and relying on skilled migrants.”
The Government will also appoint a Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM) with new terms of reference. The Council will be tasked with reviewing the list of occupations available for sponsorship under the 457 programme to ensure it is responsive to the genuine skill needs of employers, the labour market and the economy.
Minister Cash said contrary to allegations made by the former Labor Government, the review did not find there was widespread rorting of the programme.
“It did make some sensible suggestions, however, for strengthening existing provisions to ensure Australian workers have priority, while supporting employers with genuine skill shortages to access the skills they need,” Minister Cash said.
“The Abbott Government is firmly committed to ensuring that the subclass 457 programme acts as a supplement to, and not a substitute for Australian workers.”
“Through the adopted recommendations, the Government has struck the right balance between strengthening necessary integrity measures whilst removing unnecessary red-tape.”
Implementation of the review’s recommendations has begun and will be further rolled out throughout 2015. Minister Cash extended her thanks to the review panel, led by Mr John Azarias