Minister Michaela Cash comments on review and planned changes to the 457 visa program in speech to the Migration Institute of Australia conference on 31 October 2014, stating following:
“Extensive review of the 457 programme
As you know, Government regulatory activity can significantly impact business and Australia's reputation for doing business - in either a positive or negative manner.
And migration policy is one of the suite of regulatory levers available to Government to enhance our social and economic wellbeing.
The 457 programme continues to make a valuable contribution to Australia's economy and society.
The Abbott Government's migration programme and immigration policies serve to support employers in addressing skill shortages, grow productivity, create jobs for all Australians and keep Australia secure through well managed border controls and integrity in visa programmes.
To ensure we remain an economically strong and competitive nation, it is critical that appropriate migration policies are implemented to provide us with a workforce that is capable of ensuring Australia's strong growth and continued economic success into the future.
Australia has one of the most well managed skilled migration programmes amongst developed countries.
This Government recognises that our skilled migration programme must be run in the national interest.
It recognises the need for Australian business and industry to access a wide range of specialist competencies, skills, futuristic ideas and technology from overseas in order to be competitive and continue to grow in an increasingly global economy.
The skilled migration programme helps to build economic growth by attracting the best and brightest migrants to address skills shortages, prevent labour force decline and improve our declining worker-to-retiree ratio.
Skilled migration fills genuine skills shortages with skilled migrants who complement, and do not displace, Australian workers.
Where an Australian worker with the right skills is available, this person is the right choice. However, if an Australian worker with the right skills is not available, the process for employing an overseas worker should be streamlined, efficient, transparent and robust.
It is critical that future changes to the 457 programme are based on evidence and analysis.
This is why I announced an independent review earlier this year to ensure that the programme continues to respond to economic conditions in order to facilitate the entry of globally skilled persons to address skills shortages in the local labour market.
You would be aware that the final report for the independent review, titled, Robust New Foundations, was released by Minister Morrison in September and is currently available on the Department's website.
It is clear from reading the report that the recommendations are formed as a result of extensive consultations and considered discussions with stakeholders.
The panel met with more than 150 stakeholder groups across the country including with representatives from the MIA in early May.
The panel also invited public submissions and received nearly 200 responses from a variety of stakeholders, including a very comprehensive submission from the MIA.
The panel found no evidence to support claims of widespread rorting of the 457 programme, and identified a number of reforms that will improve the 457 programme. The report's 22 recommendations will make it easier for businesses to access skilled workers where there is a genuine need, and ensure a robust integrity framework is in place for the future of the 457 programme. Some of the key reforms from the panel's report were announced as part of the Industry, Innovation and Investment Competitiveness Agenda earlier this month.
These reforms include:
- simplifying sponsorship requirements for employers to reduce the time and cost involved for business;
- increasing the sponsorship approval period for start-up businesses for 12 to 18 months;
- streamlining the processes of sponsorship, nomination and visa applications to reward low risk applicants and re-focus compliance and monitoring activities on high risk applicants;
- providing greater flexibility in relation English language testing and skill requirements for 457 applicants; and
- retaining the current Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold at $53, 900.
Reforms such as these highlight the Government's work to create conditions for business to prosper by supporting growth and removing unnecessary regulation.
These changes to the programme demonstrate our commitment to evidence based productivity reform and I will be able to provide you with further information on a timeframe for implementation and a fulsome Government response to the report, in the coming months.”