Some government detractors claim changes to the 457 visa program will hinder some of the country's multi-billion dollar projects.
26 February 2013
Australia visa changes criticised
A number of governmental and business groups have expressed their frustration at the government's decision to crack down on perceived abuse of an Australia visa program which permits foreign workers.
The 457 visa program is intended for businesses and employers to bring in overseas workers to fill skills gaps, but only when they cannot source local labour.
The program has proved particularly popular but has also raised some concern that some unscrupulous employers are willing to exploit the program to bring in lower paid workers from overseas for unskilled positions when there are Australian workers available.
Recently appointed Immigration Minister Brenan O'Connor yesterday said he would introduce legislation intended to clampdown on this perceived abuse, making it harder for employers to bring in overseas workers.
While the changes have been received warmly by some, particularly Australian workers' unions who claim the program's guidelines were too lax there has been plenty of negative reaction too.
Greg Bicknell, manager of the Northern Territory's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says the changes will hamper the territory's efforts to contribute more to the national economy.
"The majority of employers in the Northern Territory are small to micro businesses," said Mr Bicknell.
"Generally, skilled migration is a last option. They will have tried hard to recruit local people first and foremost because that's easiest.
"It's a costly process to bring someone in from overseas. It's not the preferred option, but often it's the only option. Anything that increases the complexity of this program is something business doesn't want to see."
Among the changes announced by Mr O'Connor include more rigorous checks on local labour conditions, more investigative powers to scrutinise spurious claims and greater preference on English language checks.
However, James Pearson of the federal government's advisory committee on skilled migration said he is disappointed that the 'temporary migration 457 visa system [is becoming] more restrictive, onerous and costly for all businesses'.
The minister's changes may have pleased some workers' unions but not all with Steve Knott, chief executive of the Australian Mines and Metals Association, claiming skilled migration is needed to help with the AU$650 billion (£440 billion) worth of projects in Australia:
"Skilled migration remains a very small, but very important part of our country's resource investment opportunity."
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.