One of Australia's leading industry bodies warns that the country's current visa regime could hamper infrastructure development by depriving employers of much needed engineering talent.

Consult Australia warns that the country’s current visa regime is starving the design and construction industries of engineering talent, and severely impeding future infrastructure development as a consequence.


Megan Motto, CEO Consult Australia

Megan Motto, CEO of Consult Australia, said that changes to outdated visa regulations are urgently needed given the critical role that skilled migration plays in supplying the country with qualified engineers.

“Robust skilled migration programs are essential to the health of engineering-based companies and the Australian economy as a whole,” said Motto.

In addition to “the high cost of doing business” in Australia, Motto pointed to “chronic workforce supply issues” arising from the cyclical nature of employment demand as one of the most besetting problems affecting the country’s infrastructure design sector.

Consult Australia is the peak industry body for consulting firms operating in the built and natural environment, with member companies including AECOM, Opus International Consultants, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and WorleyParsons.

Motto has called in particular for the government to make amendments to the 457 visa program, which she says singles out the employers of engineers for unfair treatment.

“Recently introduced Labour Market Testing (LMT) requirements that specifically target employers of engineers – but no other professionals – add administrative burdens to an industry that is already struggling” Motto said. “The 457 visa was intended as a means for filling positions that are in high demand and hard to fill – yet recent reforms have made doing that exponentially harder.”

The 457 visa has of late become a keen source of controversy for Australian workers on the opposite end of the employment equation. The Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) claimed in early April that the visas had been abused by Gina Rinehart’s $10 billion Roy Hill iron ore project to bring in up to 200 Korean workers to the Pilbara, where they had been forced to work in exploitative conditions.

Consult Australia has sought to assuage concerns about similar abuses by the employers of professional engineers, however, by submitting data attesting to industry compliance with the visa program.