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Federal

Nov 15, 2016

Protectionism turns its ugly gaze on 457 visas

Foreign workers are now in the firing line as both Labor and the far right move to target 457 visas in the protectionist surge.

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Malcolm Turnbull

Suddenly 457 visas are back on the political agenda in a big way, with Labor today unveiling a set of “reform” proposals to make it harder and more expensive for businesses to use foreign workers. And Australian businesses have only themselves to blame.

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JimDocker
Member
I am far from the ‘Fuck off, we’re full brigade’, but 457 visas are a problem. I am more from the ‘Bring them here’ set. I employ people as needed. Generally full time and whatever nationality. I have in the past sponsored one Irishman in boom conditions and no tradesmen were to be found. Right now, with many tradespeople out of work, several companies in my field are simple filling their factories full of cheap foreign labour. No apprenticeships being offered in those places and prices are unsustainable. I have no problem with the concept of 457 visas, but the… Read more »
Tesenka Mai
Member

Keane slipping in a jab at submarine building every issue

Andrew Seeze
Member

The 457 visas have their place when the right context and conditions present themselves. But to continue them in Australia unabated with rising unemployment is just plain lunacy.

Inner Space
Member

For once I agree with Lib/Lab. The need to protect vital industries which sustains employment in this country is absolutely essential. I can understand the need for the 457 visas when necessary but anything after that is pointless and serving a strange and very foreign agenda.

wilful
Member

Knowing how many 457 visas are issued its hardly a radical policy!

Nicholas
Member

Allowing employers to rort the skilled migration program is stupid. Maintaining such a large skilled migration program when we should be training and creating jobs for the two million Australians whose desires to work are not being met is obscene. Bernard Keane’s blind obedience to neoliberal dogma is the same basic problem that has reduced the Democratic Party to a smoking heap of rubble.

Dog's Breakfast
Member
It’s not protectionism to protect employment for nationals. No country allow foreign workers will-nilly, nor should they. Our 457s have been rorted royally. The worst of the impact, as others point out, is that companies use it as an excuse to bring in skilled migration rather than skill up local workers, most particularly in the trades, which we will need desperately in the future. Plumbing, electricals, carpentry and building are skills we will always need. Why are companies not required to employ apprentices as a percentage of their workforce before they are allowed to employ foreign workers. And although the… Read more »
beryceann@bigpond.com
Member
beryceann@bigpond.com
Bernard Keane is completely missing the point if he thinks “protectionism ” is behind the very serious concerns about the misuse of 457, 416 and student visa holders in Australia. Those of us who have been quietly working to get something done for the past three or more years will be pleased that finally action is being taken. 7Eleven and Caltex are simply the tip of a very ugly iceberg involving the construction industry, the food processing industry, the tertiary education system along with agriculture and its associated industries. Not all companies or individuals in those sectors are abusing their… Read more »
Helen Ashman
Member
Dear Crikey, can you please do us an ongoing question-and-answer dialogue about protectionism? I don’t understand why Bernard Keane is anti-protectionist, nor why 457s are good. Here are a few starter questions: 1) If 457s are allowed to continue as they are, where are the jobs for locals? What is their income stream? 2) If “employers … genuinely can’t find the local skilled labour”, will not employing 457s only perpetuate the problem? 3) If we don’t train locals in the needed skills, do we then become dependent upon a steady supply of international workers? How does this impact our sovereignty,… Read more »
Andrew Seeze
Member

Brilliant.

David Irving (no relation)
Member
David Irving (no relation)
You’re wrong, Bernard. The 457 scheme has always been rorted. Before I retired, I was a computer programmer. I can clearly remember being annoyed by claims that mine was an occupation with too few Australians available at times when I was unable to find work. It’s more that employers couldn’t find people prepared to work for low wages. While it’s true that there are sometimes genuine shortages in particular trades and other skilled occupations, that’s largely because the Australian business community generally has abrogated its responsibility to train people for its future requirements. Too many members of the AIG are… Read more »
Andrew Seeze
Member

The truth behind unmeasured immigration has and will always be, a cheaper labour market. The big end of town always licks their lips when their well lobbied and well funded politician mates curtsy and kowtow to the program. Nothing will ever convince me differently.

lethell
Member
Also, of course, privatisation of publicly owned utilities which trained vast numbers of tradespeopleto a high standard, has contributed to a shortage of skilled workers. Business in the end cares for little besides profit and its unwillingness to train workers was completely foreseeable. When exacerbated by the rorts made possible by the outsourcing of training and the destruction of TAFE, the sheer stupidity of a policy of privatisation of public goods is blatantly obvious. It amounts to no more than kleptocracy on a grand scale, stealing from past and future generations for the sake of the short term enrichment of… Read more »
Fred Bloggs
Member
https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Work/Work/Skills-assessment-and-assessing-authorities/skilled-occupations-lists/SOL Have a look at that list – with current youth unemployment levels, there is no way in hell we should be importing ‘skilled’ labour to work as painters, tilers and plasterers. There are a bunch of others on the list that point out the need to reform the delivery of technical trades training away from the terribly (also rorted) vocational training schemes. At least now we’ve taken the cooks and hairdressers off the list. We’re heading over the capex cliff from the mining boom, the LNG projects are all done, the apartment construction boom will start to taper off.… Read more »
Michael Williams
Member

I’ve had friends in the UK with engineering degrees and decades of experience ask what it is that blocks them from entry into Australia whereas someone with a few months of haircutting goes to the top of the queue.

Dion Giles
Member
It took the best part of a century for class struggle by the creators of wealth (the lifters) to reach the award levels accepted today (though under constant attack by the leaners who acquire wealth while creating none- ABCC anyone?). Bernard Keane is presenting the undiluted perspectives of the non-producing leaners for whom national economic independence is anathema – a dreaded “ism”. This demonisaation of national economic democracy is directed to preserving unfettered trade with debased regions with cowed labour forces to perpetuate a forced competitive race to the bottom between Australian wealth-creators and enslaved foreign wealth-creators. The misuse of… Read more »
Dion Giles
Member

Expect a frantic spiv scramble to undo the “damage” !

Hoss
Member

Over the years both sides of parliament have reduced support for training and retraining programs except where there is a short term political imperative – such as the quite comprehensive support packages for autoworkers. Apprenticeships and domestic programs seem too difficult to implement and manage – especially when we can feed off the programs of other countries. We also seem to be incapable of dealing effectively with rorts which makes good mainstream news fodder. And unfortunately our politicians are more likely to respond to media reports, rather than implementing well researched and reasoned policy.

Draco Houston
Member

Should we really defend the 457 program? It keeps producing actual slavery and is set up to give slave owners a stick to beat the slaves with, deportation.

The 457 program is a crap program if you want open borders and the free movement of people and labour.

Michael Williams
Member
Bernard wrote “the employers that genuinely can’t find the local skilled labour they need will face higher costs and more red tape to justify tapping foreign workers for those skills” They think they need cheap labour with a certificate they got online that says they do X (typically in IT) because they don’t want to pay the great reservoir of un/under-employed people who are 45y or over to do this work. Despite international experience, multiple patents and broad experience I found myself rebuffed for YEARS by local employers because I was too old, too smart, potentially too expensive. Meanwhile I… Read more »
Dr Dagg
Member

Here, here.

Dr Dagg
Member

“Meantime, the employers that genuinely can’t find the local skilled labour” … should suck it up and organise themselves to ensure they have the sets of skills available. They’re not caught between anyone … but are part of the same complacent business community that expects society to provide for them when they won’t provide for themselves.

Bob the builder
Member
Bernard, what b*llshit! 457 visas and their close cousins, like the backpacker visa have been systematically used to lower labour costs. Sure, there are some few examples where businesses genuinely need high-level skills that are unavailable locally, but mostly this is used to employ lower-skilled and manual workers. I’m sure many readers in the real world have seen this around them on farms, construction sites, ‘convenience’ stores, factories and so on… I picked fruit a bit in the early 2000s, just as the influx of cheap, uncomplaining backpacker labour was starting to make a serious dent in fruitpickers’ livelihoods. Decent,… Read more »
Andrew Seeze
Member

I am not one to deny a starving foreign family of it’s daily bread, but the 457’s presents a cash drain when money earnt goes back home and not, usually not, invested back into the local economy. That could be petty, but it’s a fact.

Bob the builder
Member

Equally, I’m not one to deny a struggling country the workforce it’s educated with its limited resources. It’s a pretty bad look to cream the crop of much poorer countries’ workforce so we can get them cheap.

James O'Neill
Member
There is little doubt that 457 visa are abused by some employers but essential for others who would otherwise be unable to find labor to do the jobs Australians refuse to do. But the brouhaha currently filling the air waves is a distraction, like just about every Coalition announcement these days. In last Saturday’s Saturday Paper there is an excellent article by Mike Seccombe based one an interview with John Hewson. In the course of the interview Hewson said: “Turnbull does not have a policy agenda. He never has had. My view is that he has taken positions on issues… Read more »
bushby jane
Member

What about the biggest block of illegal entrants to our shores, those who overstay visas and go mia? Presumably they must work somewhere to support themselves, and it would have to be cash only I would think.

brigitte te whiti
Member

I was just about to snortle at the genius line “…too busy running open-air rape camps…” then I remembered my government is actually running open-air rape camps in my name

Duncan Gilbey
Member

As others have pointed out, employers are not training anyone anymore (getting a 457 employee instead), which is neither criminal nor scandalous. But it is stupidly short sighted.
Ease up on the KoolAid, Bernard.

Pamela
Member

For once I read all comments. Wise insightful stuff. 457 visas vexed issue.
So many ripped off workers while a few really needed. However the facts on the ground are that some employers are making money out of the workers and no one is stopping it.
They pay the minimum wage then suck it back by deducting accomm and transport costs eg $150 per week for a bunk bed – 4-6 in a cabin etc.
As for aged care workers and others- they get short shifts- not full time .
Low wages and diminished conditions which Australians won’t accept is the reality.

Charlie Chaplin
Member
Come on Bernard. You can’t kick immigrants to distract the people from labour underutilisation if you don’t sink the slipper into the 457 Visa workers as well. Politics 101. Stay tuned next week and learn how unskilled labour is the cause of labour underutilisation in the country and how the government is giving the jobs and training corporations extra funding to address the issue. Might even be a few more $4 an hour internships for the young ones if only Maccas, Coles and Woollies will agree the training subsidy is sufficient for to reimburse them for the inconvenience of taking… Read more »
Graham R
Member
There has been a massive immigration racket being run in Australia for many years now, brutally disguised by successive Governments by the “look over there” distraction of boat-arrival concentration camps. Bernard, Have you EVER been to QLD or WA? Have you any idea of the the 457 and other visa rackets operating in those states that ensure that nearly everyone on a mine in NOT Australian? Have you ever visited one of the mines that supply Australia with 30% of its export income? I thought not, Bernard. During the mining boom here in WA I kept asking HR people how… Read more »
Inner Space
Member

“of course, in the future, most Australians will have to spend some time abroad working.”
Ooooo, yes. I do remember that comment and it sent shivers down my backbone. For me it was evidence of the Lib-Lab bipartisanship for the global movement of labour from the nationless states to the jurisprudence of New World Order. Gillard often let things slip.

JMNO
Member
Very good comments above. Your article is a knee-jerk panic, Bernard. Skilled temporary entry is not going to cease. It would be good if it went back to what it was before the 457 visa replaced the specialist class 414 visa. Employers never had to comply with a whole lot of red tape. They just had to be a professional sort of organisation that had good recruitment, training, remuneration and staffing policies and ran a viable business. It is not hard to demonstrate this if you are a reputable organisation and if you bother to find out what the requirements… Read more »
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