30 June 2008
Australian Immigration Minister announces proposed changes to 457 visas
Senator Chris Evans, Australian Immigration Minister, released a discussion paper today about his government’s proposed changes to the 457 temporary skilled visa scheme. Under the proposed new scheme, special investigatory officers will have the authority to enter the workplace to ensure immigrant workers are not being exploited.
According to The Age newspaper, the proposal is part of the amendments to the Migration Act under the Rudd Government. It is designed to protect immigrant workers from receiving below award-rate wages and poor working conditions. Under the new scheme, workplace inspectors will have the power to search workplaces to see if employers are upholding sponsorship obligations. Employers who provide false or misleading information can be charged up to $110,000 or face 10 years in prison.
"The intention of the bill is to clarify sponsor obligations and provide further fair and transparent mechanisms for temporary workers from overseas. The additional obligations set out in the discussion paper are simply options and should not be interpreted as a complete list of obligations which would otherwise be imposed," Senator Evans said.
The discussion paper has been released to stakeholders and the Minister is waiting for feedback. The Industrial Relations Commissioner Barbara Deegan is also due to give feedback on the proposal by October. Senator Evans is hoping to have the changes take effect in September of this year.
Australia welcomes overseas workers on other temporary working visas, such as Australian working visa and highly skilled migrant visa. The Government is working hard to remain open to outsourcing skills and labour; another visa scheme is undergoing review from the Cabinet this month which will allow 5,000 guest workers to temporarily work in the viticultural and horticultural regions of Australia.