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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 2181



Mr HAYES (Fowler) (14:19): My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. How is the government supporting jobs and making sure that Australians do not miss out on job opportunities because of abuses in the 457 system? And, Minister, are there other approaches to this?

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (GortonMinister for Immigration and Citizenship) (14:20): I thank the member for his question and his ongoing interest in protecting Australian workers from unfair practices. This government is very proud of its record in creating job opportunities for Australians. We have avoided the worst of the GFC by taking courageous decisions and that is borne out yet again today by the unemployment figures. The facts are that there have now been 926,000 jobs created in this country since we were elected, 71,500 in this period, which is the highest amount since July 2000—quite remarkable figures indeed. We will continue to do this because we have the right policies in place. But in doing so, in creating jobs, we want to make sure that we protect Australian workers and ensure that their conditions of employment are decent. That is what Labor governments do and that is why the government has announced reforms to the 457 visa system for temporary labour, because there is a concerning trend for the program in that the growth in the program is in the lower skilled occupations.

There have been dramatic increases in sponsorships in the retail and hospitality sectors, which have basically doubled in the last 12 months. These are, as we all know, traditional sectors for young people to get their foot in the door and gain experience, often paying for their expenses while studying for another trade or profession. So it is important that these entry-level jobs are there for local workers.

Indeed, there are a couple of examples that have been of concern to me recently. A pizza shop sought to employ a human resource manager, a position usually found in larger businesses. The department at the time was unable to prevent this sponsorship from occurring under the current rules, even though they strongly suspected that the position was not genuine—and they found, subsequently, that that was the case.

In Parramatta a company was seeking to employ project and program administrators—or so they said—but when the department looked at the actual job descriptions it turned out that those 457-visa workers would be working as security guards. That was an abuse of the system that will be, of course, rectified by the efforts of this government to bring about the reforms that are needed. None of these was a genuine skills shortage and that is why we need to stamp out these rorts.

Of course, we have a different position from those opposite. The Leader of the Opposition was suggesting that the 457 scheme should be the mainstay of immigration. That would displace Australian workers and undermine employment conditions and is not acceptable to this government.