Australia's mining industry does not oppose the Turnbull government's decision to scrap the 457 visa program but wants to be able to easily bring in temporary foreign workers when needed, given its reliance on them during the resources boom.
The 457s will be replaced with a tighter regime, with the list of 650 occupations that qualify reduced by 200, and higher standards of English language skills and criminal checks required.
The mining industry represents only 1.8 per cent, or 230, of new 457 applications and 2.4 per cent of the nation’s 96,000 457 visa holders, according to the most recent government report from last year.
However, if Australia were to experience a new mining boom that sparked shortages and demand for skills in trades needed to build projects, it’s important employers have access to the right workforces, said Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Simon Bennison.
“Look at what we went through with the construction phase of the last cycle,” he said.
Western Australia alone made more than 16,000 applications for 457 visas in the year to June 2012, driven by demand for engineers, WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Deidre Willmott said.
Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Brendan Pearson said the mining industry’s use of temporary skilled migration had declined by nearly 70 per cent over the past three years as skills shortages eased.
Workers with 457 visas made up only 1.1 per cent of the industry’s workforce, he said.
Mr Bennison and Mr Pearson both said they did not think the changes were radical and they welcomed the safeguards to Australian jobs.