The government’s move to abolish 457 visas has sparked fierce debate among the SME community about the role of foreign workers in modern business. Here's what My Business readers and contributors had to say.
Some are feverishly supportive of the government’s decision to replace 457 visas with a new visa program featuring stricter conditions (even arguing for restrictions to tighten further still), while others are venting anger and despair about what it will mean for their business going forward.
Here’s a look at some of the comments that My Business has fielded on the subject in recent days – on mybusiness.com.au, by email and through our social media channels. For easy reference, we’ve divided them into those that are for and against the removal of 457s, as well as others that question what the move will mean for the future.
Supporting the government’s move
“I would like to see the overwhelming number of Australians looking for work in their own country trained up in the areas where there are skills shortages.”
This will create a level playing field for IT or the music industry, so others cannot import workers from overseas to knock out local developers or musicians like myself. I am so glad they dropped 457 visas. Some companies were exploiting it to get cheap labour, which made it very hard to compete in my own country, Australia. Yes, now Australia has to train up workers to fill the gap and get people off the unemployment queue, rather than cop out and source workers from overseas
I am an electrical contractor and data technician. I have a Diploma in Network Engineering & Electrical Engineering. I live on the Mid North Coast of NSW. I have been looking for IT work for over 10 Years. I do not know [how] business, or Government, could be giving jobs to overseas people, when Australians are unemployed and looking for work. Hopefully I will be getting work now!
It's about time. Now maybe we can get some Australians employed and look after [our] own for a change.
Finally removing some slaves from the workplace means citizens can earn an honest dollar and become consumers to keep our country moving. Changes do not go far enough.
I would like to see the overwhelming number of Australians looking for work in their own country trained up in the areas where there are skills shortages. We don't need to bring in any foreign workers at all.
Against the government’s move
“My clients tell me that without 457, they would simply not exist.”
I’m so angry about the changes to 457. In the communications and marketing industry, we struggle to find mid-weight people with the experience and desire at the account manager level that our clients expect. As an integrated agency, there are no integrated communication graduates – they are all marketing OR PR, so we often need to throw the net wider for people with the experience we need.
This brings nothing but uncertainty and anxiety to an already stretched workforce. I think the majority of people doing the right thing and working to get their sponsorship visas are being punished. This is crazy. I know many of our client’s companies and industries such as IT and accommodation will be unduly affected.
Felicity Zadro - managing director, Zadro
When you are working from a critical shortage in your skill base and the Government determines otherwise, I ask the question 'Will it affect us and lower the standard of service delivery?' I would say yes, and it is very disappointing. I am an arborist and we have had a skill shortage for well over 10 years: finding suitably qualified people is a nightmare.”
I think it is very hard to truly understand the impact of the deletion of 457 Category without fully understanding the replacements and their scope. Already there is massive speculative coverage and I doubt that any government would not have thought this through. So I doubt 457 has been dumped without a replacement.
What I do know for certain is that there would be an important part of Australia’s current productivity that could be directly attributed to the 457 workforce. Where Australians will not take jobs and 457 holders will, there is a fundamental problem for productivity and SME success if these people were denied working opportunities in favour of another training programme that hopes to activate those that remain unemployed.
Returns on dollars invested in many training schemes to try to get work seem to me not to have been great. There is clearly some chicken-and-egg in all of this.
My clients tell me that without 457, they would simply not exist.
Bevan Roberts - director and CEO, Dale Wood Business Sales Consultancy
The issue of axing the 457 visa is a knee-jerk reaction of a government devoid of any real ideas on how to stimulate jobs growth. It is a short-term band-aid solution aimed at appeasing the ranting minority that will simply create more bureaucracy.
Skill shortfalls will always be there until a government with long-term vision, rather than a short-term point-scoring agenda, looks at what industries, etc Australia will need in the future, and tailors its educational and training facilities towards turning out that type of skilled worker.
The change is clearly bad news for small businesses in the hairdressing industry. We don't recruit 457 lightly, since there is additional costs and time involved. We do recruit 457 to overcome the scarcity of good, reliable and passionate hairdressers to offer the best service to the consumers.
I am afraid the change is going to encourage average performance, and I predict the gap with international best practice is going to grow in the coming years. There are other ways to fight the few dodgy businesses that don't follow the rules than adding red tape hurdles on everyone.
What will this mean for the future?
“Applicants who are eligible for permanent employer visas are advised to proceed with lodgement as soon as possible to avoid the changes.”
The sudden unexpected and shock changes to the occupations list for 457 visas have already started to come into effect immediately – this will likely impact many employers and employees quite significantly.
The new TSS visa is likely to be more restrictive than the current 457 visa – of shorter duration with more restrictive requirements in terms of skill level and labour market testing. Visa applicants and businesses seeking to sponsor staff for temporary visas are advised to look at lodging their applications well before March 2018.
Applicants for permanent employer sponsored visas will also be impacted, but it is not yet clear when these changes will come into effect, though it looks as if it may be March 2018. The main changes are in relation to the amount of work experience required, English requirement and age limit. Applicants who are eligible for permanent employer visas are advised to proceed with lodgement as soon as possible to avoid the changes.
Justin Rickard - director, Australian Immigration Lawyers
Will this now encourage ‘Labour Hire Companies’ to recruit seasonal labour through Centrelink notifications of the Australian unemployed youth?
No one mentions how many skills leave Australia every year, as only our skilled people can get jobs overseas. It's about the same number as what comes in, so at the moment we are close to neutral migration...
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.