A leader in the engineering sector in Australia has joined unions in slamming proposals to water down requirements relating to Australia’s foreign worker visa program, saying new rules which would allow specialised staff to work in Australia for up to a year without a 457 visa would open the way for the system to be rorted.

Speaking on the ABC’s The World Today program, Engineers Australia Chief Executive Officer Steven Durkin said proposals for a new class of temporary entry visa which would allow companies to bring foreign workers into Australia for up to a year without workers in question having to pass requirements relating to skills or language and without employers having to first prove that the position in question cannot be filled using Australian workers could result in foreign workers swamping the market at a time when local engineers are facing increasingly uncertain times in the grip of a mining downturn.

“The potential for this to be rorted is through, you know, employers who might be able to bring in those short-term specialists, there’s either the fly-in, fly-out workers who might, you know, come in to provide some consultation service who might do inter-company transfers,” Durkin told the program. “What we are concerned about is that removing any of those safeguards that are currently in place could swamp the local market.”

Durkin said the need for labour market testing prior to brining in foreign workers in order to prove that positions could not be filled using local staff remained strong notwithstanding growing calls on the part of business greater simplification of foreign worker requirements.

“What we feel really strongly about is that we need labour market testing. We are very much of the view that these visas should be a privilege, not a right, we certainly feel that employers should have to prove that they can’t fill the jobs using local skills and a local skilled workforce.”

Durkin’s call echoes sentiments of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, whose Secretary Ged Kearney described the proposal as ‘extraordinary’ and said that it showed that ‘the people doing this review either don’t care or have not really had a careful look at the workplace situation right now’.

Under the proposed new changes – which have been outlined in a Department of Immigration and Border Protection paper as part of what the Abbott government claims is the biggest re-examination of skilled migration in 25 years – a new type of visa would allow companies to bring in foreign workers for up to a year without the worker having to meet strict language and skill requirements under the existing 457 regime or the employer having to meet requirements to conduct market testing prior to prove that no local labour was available to suitably and adequately perform the role in question.

The proposed changes would also see the existing 457 visa absorbed into a new ‘temporary skilled’ category and the creation of new ‘permanent independent’ and ‘permanent skilled’ categories – with the 457 regime retaining aforementioned skill, language and market testing requirements.

Despite the aforementioned concerns, business groups welcomed the proposed new rules, saying employers needed greater flexibility and that the compliance requirements with the existing 457 regime were too onerous in respect of short-term assignments and that timeframes on an existing category 400 visa allowing workers into the country for up to six weeks were insufficient to meet the requirements of many temporary roles.

“This is needed because regularly on major projects now, a company might need to say install a new piece of equipment in Australia from overseas and they want to bring in an operator or an installer to actually do the installation and there’s nobody in Australia who has used that particular piece of machinery before,” Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Officer Kate Carnell told the ABC program. “So, bringing someone in for a short-term period, but longer than six weeks is really cost effective and also good for efficiency.”

Public submissions on the proposed new rules are open until the end of January.

  • Durkin's right – safeguards must be implemented as the last thing local industry needs is a deluge of unqualified labor.

    • Durkin's comments are way off the mark. Typical of a professional association fearful that their cozy closed shop will be disrupted. The reality is that most businesses will take local skilled workers ahead of the costs, red tape and delay in accessing foreign workers.

  • What the responsible Minister Michaelia Cash is doing is to broaden the 400 visa sub class to allow more flexibility to respond to immediate demand for skilled workers, when and where local tradespeople are not available. Industries such as construction often have projects of around 3 – 12 months duration making securing temporary foreign labour under a 457 visa impracticable. Union claims that it will Australian jobs are outrageous as there is no incentive from a cost or timing perspective to access foreign labour ahead of readily available local people if they are available.
    The Government's proposal is basically just common sense reform.

  • I am opposed to any 457 visa, this is an attack to our employment, I am a lifetime member of LNP, but I do regret voting for this bunch of clowns, next time around, I will not be so kind, what ever they do is the opposite what needed to be done and lets not count the broken promises blaming everybody else but not themselves.
    We must get this country going again, but not with these Clowns at the elm, we need people that look after the less fortunate, not the banks and the wealthy, so cigars chomping Joe came up with a real budget or otherwise you will be out in a flash, my advise to you is to cut your salaries first by 25 to 40% and all your entitlements/perks, and then start looking at the wealthiest/banks/institutions and slug them of one 10% extra tax for every dollar they earn, when this is done then come to the lower income earner and tax them 2 to 5%.
    So don't come to Queensland and mess up our election PM Abbott you are not welcome by many that in that State have put they trust in you.
    We don't trust you any more so jump in a boat and be a castaway, you have better chance to be accepted.

  • So, it is ok for Australian developers and management contractors working in Europe to exploit Europe's liberal worker migration policies but when similar moves are mooted for Australia that is not considered acceptable, perhaps the former is what is unacceptable?

  • If this current government continues down this path it will see no professional skills left in Australia as design and engineering jobs continue to go off shore, not to mention the 457 visa farce, that big business can't find local professional skills in market that is now flooded with out of work local qualified talent. So I say continue this course and Australia very quickly digs a hole so big it will never climb out off, and big business eventually can no longer seek favors from a liberal government and vice versa because the cost to employ any local qualified skill will be significantly more than it is today (especially when the liberals are replaced with another party)………The claims that business are making to justify the watered down visa's are just a smoke screen IMO. So go ahead IMO your hurting yourselves in the long run………

Position Partner – 300x 600 (engineering – expire July 31 2018)