22 November 2006

Australian Government releases 457 visa figures

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The Australian Federal Government granted temporary work visas to 11,060 migrants and 9,600 of their spouses and dependents in the first quarter of the financial year, new figures published in The Australian show.

Most of the controversial 457 visas issued between July and September this year went to migrants employed in NSW (3,770), followed by Victoria (2,480), Queensland (2,010) and Western Australia (1,780).

People from Britain, India, the Philippines, South Africa, the US, China and Germany led the list of visa recipients, according to the figures released by Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone.

The 457 visa program has been the subject of political controversy.

Labor leader Kim Beazley has claimed the scheme allows foreign workers to take the places of Australian employees and induces bosses to drive down wages.

There have been many cases of workers on 457 visas claiming to have been underpaid and unfairly treated by bosses who did not pay them their full entitlements.

Senator Vanstone says the 457 visa program is one response to the skills shortage, as it allows Australian businesses to import workers from overseas if they cannot fill vacancies locally.

Some people permitted to work in Australia on the temporary visas can eventually transfer to permanent work visas.

The minister was in Brisbane today to promote the scheme, which she said had allowed the Queensland Government to fill 600 vacancies in the state's health system last year.

"I'm very concerned that Mr Beazley's constant attacks on the 457 visa are undermining the desires of migrants to come to Australia," Senator Vanstone said.

"It's interesting that in the last year, the Queensland Government sponsored some 10 per cent of 457 visa holders but in the first quarter of this year, they have sponsored a whopping 17 per cent.

"So there can't be much wrong with this visa if the Queensland Government is nearly using one fifth of their arrivals into Queensland."

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