The Migration and Education Alliance of Australia welcomes the Australian Government's response to the recommendations made by an independent review into maintaining the integrity of the subclass 457 visa programme.
The review chaired by Mr John Azarias was commissioned in 2014 and the panel was tasked with examining compliance within the 457 programme by sponsors of overseas workers to ensure that the scheme was being used as intended – to address skill shortages which cannot be met from the Australian labour market.
The panel consulted widely across Australia – meeting with over 140 stakeholders and received 189 written submissions, including from businesses, unions, industry bodies, universities and academics.
Senator Michaelia Cash said “This programme is of fundamental importance for Australia’s productivity going forward.”
Key recommendations of the review comprise an increased focus on targeting employers who seek to misuse the programme, greater transparency around the department's sanctions processes and proactive sharing of information between key government agencies.
To give a perspective of how widespread this visa subclass actually is Minister Cash stated “The number of 457 visa holders in Australia is less than one percent of Australia’s workforce.”
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will work collaboratively with the Australian Taxation Office to cross check records to ensure that workers on 457 visas are receiving their nominated salary and are not undercutting Australian workers. "We will reduce the regulatory burden for those businesses with a proven track record by streamlining sponsorship requirements," Minister Cash said.
Steps will be taken to ensure businesses that utilise the 457 programme appropriately will incur less regulation and cost, without compromising on the necessary safeguards that underpin the scheme.
"The Government will introduce a new penalty making it unlawful for sponsors to receive payment in return for sponsoring a worker for a 457 visa," Minister Cash said.
An important recommendation which is subject to further consultation is the proposal to replace the current training benchmark provisions which are complex, costly, and susceptible to misuse.
The Government will also appoint a Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM) with new terms of reference. The Council will be tasked with reviewing the list of occupations available for sponsorship under the 457 programme to ensure it is responsive to the genuine skill needs of employers, the labour market and the economy.
Minister Cash said contrary to allegations the review did not find there was widespread rorting of the programme “The majority of the employers do the right thing.”
Implementation of the review's recommendations will be further rolled out throughout 2015. You can read more at the following link: Independent review of the 457 programme.