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“Industry calmed by foreign visa changes”
Chief executives, engineers and scientists are some of the key occupations that will benefit from changes to the government’s shake-up of the skilled migration program aimed at putting Australian workers first.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that, from today, all permanent skilled visas would have “tightened English-language and lower maximum-age requirements”, while flagging further measures to improve the integrity of the foreign-worker system.
The changes are accompanied by a range of measures that also take effect today, including penalty rate cuts for retail and hospitality workers, the lifting of the temporary deficit levy, a 3.3 per cent increase to the minimum wage, a 2 per cent pay rise for politicians, a pause on the indexation of family payments, and a major overhaul to the superannuation system, including a universal cap on concessional contributions at $25,000.
In April, the government announced plans to abolish the contentious 457 foreign-worker visa program and create a new Temporary Skill Shortage visa, to start in March next year.
The changes unveiled yesterday were made in response to industry feedback, after concerns were raised at the way the new TSS visa program had been divided, with some industry sectors saying they would be unable to attract world-class talent.
This was because Mr Dutton created two TSS visa categories: a short-term, two-year stream and a medium-term stream allowing workers in “high skill and critical need occupations” to stay for up to four years.
As part of the shake-up, the list of eligible occupations underpinning the 457 visa program was heavily condensed from 651 to 435 occupations, with 216 removed.
Yesterday’s changes mean 36 occupations are being restored to the four-year visa stream. They include petroleum engineers, biochemists, horse trainers and metallurgists. Other occupations such as helicopter pilot, music director and nurse researcher have been restored to the two-year stream.
The government has also shuffled around the occupations between the streams. While only two occupations, mining production manager and anaesthetist, have been shifted from the four-year visa stream to the two-year stream, 23 occupations have been upgraded by being moved into the four-year visa stream. These include statisticians, university lecturers, chief executives, botanists, zoologists and meteorologists.
President of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes Tony Cunningham said the changes represented “really great news for medical research”.
Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said the tweaks made by government addressed legitimate concerns raised by industry. “Ai Group members had … been very concerned by the earlier downgrading of chief executive, managing director and corporate general manager to the short-term list,” Mr Willox said.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the overhaul addressed the “genuine concern that a two-year visa is not long enough to attract and retain the best talent from around the world”.
(c) Joe Kelly theaustralian.com.au
“Government Modifies Visa Programme”
The Australian federal government has modified its 457 visa occupations list to once again include categories vital to the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industries. The industries were faced with a shortage of skilled workers when categories were removed from the 457 visa’s skilled migration occupation list that would allow foreign nationals to come to Australia to fill positions in stables and on stud farms. The categories added include ‘jockey’, ‘horse breeder’ and ‘horse trainer’.
“Racing Australia commends Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s early acknowledgement of the potential problems faced by the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry and his department’s efforts to resolve them,” said Racing Australia Chief Executive Officer Barry O’Farrell. “Mr Dutton was very clear: if we could demonstrate the proposed changes would
damage Australia’s $5-billion racing industry he would act. Working with all industry sectors, we prepared a strong case and we’re delighted Mr Dutton has responded positively. We also acknowledge the strong support of Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.”
“Our use of skilled migration visas is relatively small compared to other industries, but those who are employed fill roles that are critical to the ongoing operation of the horse racing and breeding sectors,” O’Farrell added. “Today’s decision provides the certainty required by those responsible for managing
the operation of Australia’s Thoroughbred studs, stables and racetracks.”
Basil Nolan, president of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, said, “On behalf of the TBA I’d like to thank the government for listening to us breeders, as well as the broader racing industry, on what our needs are. We don’t employ big numbers of foreign workers, but those that are here are a vital part of the workforce and in a global business such as breeding we need to continue to have access to these highly skilled people. We also owe thanks to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who met with us to discuss this issue face-to-face and gave us a commitment he would assist on our behalf. I should also point out that it is testament to the continued efforts of TBA under our Chief Executive Tom Reilly to improve our industry’s standing in Canberra that we were able to have such a meeting and receive such a commitment. Finally, I would like to thank Barry O’Farrell at Racing Australia for his ongoing efforts on this issue as well as the Australian Trainers’ Association and NSW Trainers’ Association.”