Much of the reaction to the government’s scrapping of the 457 visa program has been premised on the idea that, welcome or not, the move is largely political and practically inconsequential. Responding to Malcolm Turnbull’s insistence last week that “Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs,” Bill Shorten described the surprise move as a “con job” not a “crackdown". After all, he said, foreign nurses and mechanics would continue to be able to come here to take local jobs.
The commentariat, by and large, has bought into this line: that is, whatever their merits, the changes will have little practical effect, apart from serving as a red meat offering by Turnbull to the increasingly alienated conservative base of his party. Accordingly, media reports have described the changes as “an illusion act,” “merely symbolic” and “meaningless".