Business urges caution on 457 assault
BUSINESS groups and the federal opposition say they will consider backing Gillard government measures to ensure the 457 visa program is properly run, but they will not support unfair attacks on skilled migrants.
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the Labor proposal should be discussed with the government’s skilled migration advisory council of business and unions before any decisions were announced.
“There has been a disappointing debate about 457 visas in recent months, where advocates for a significant and potentially economically damaging tightening of the current system have made inflated and exaggerated claims supported by no substantial evidence to support their claims,” Mr Willox said.
He said industry accepted “isolated cases of abuse” should be investigated and dealt with, and that the Fair Work Ombudsman should step up its inquiries on 457 visas.
“However, further steps to deliberately make it harder for legitimate employers to engage global labour to fill skills gaps in the Australian economy would do nothing to build Australia’s international reputation as an open economy,” Mr Willox said.
Business Council of Australia spokesman Scott Thompson condemned what he said were unsubstantiated allegations about the integrity of the scheme, saying they brought responsible employers legitimately using the scheme into disrepute.
“It makes no sense to be suggesting that employers would use the 457 visa scheme to avoid hiring Australian workers because it is cheaper and faster to hire local labour if it can be found,” Mr Thompson said.
“We should be very careful about adding new regulation which risks holding up investment and business activity when the vast majority of companies are doing the right thing.”
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison told The Australian the Coalition was happy to consider commonsense housekeeping measures to protect the integrity of the 457 program that supported the highly successful skilled migration program and Australian jobs.
“What we won’t support is the vilification of skilled migrants that the government has engaged in, based on the made up claims of Minister O’Connor, who has handed over control of the immigration program to the unions,” Mr Morrison said.
Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor said there were already fines for anyone rorting the system: $1020 for an individual, $5001 for a body corporate.
“And the department can bar the employers from putting further applications if they breach.”
But he said the process had not been properly policed in the past.
“Penalties are in place but they have rarely been imposed because there has been an inability to compare what is happening as opposed to what is written on the application form.”