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Wednesday, 27 February 2013
Page: 1108

Migration


Senator URQUHART (Tasmania) (14:11): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Lundy. Can the minister update the Senate on the steps being taken by the government to help Australians get jobs and stop rorts of 457 visas?


Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (14:11): The Gillard government's No. 1 priority is ensuring jobs for Australian workers and making sure Australians are in work. The Gillard government values the 457 visa subclass; it provides us short-term labour in industries and regions experiencing skills shortages and most employers utilise the scheme as it was intended.

It is becoming evident, however, that the growth in the 457 program is not in line with our skills shortages and the government has evidence that some employers are abusing the system and using the 457 visas to employ foreign workers over local workers. This is not acceptable. Australians deserve the chance to get local jobs and the government is determined to make that happen. That is why we are introducing a set of changes to the 457 program including a requirement that employers need to show a genuine shortage exists before nominating positions to be sponsored, banning of on-hire arrangements for 457 visa workers and ensuring stronger compliance and enforcement powers to stop employers who have routinely abused the 457 system.

The government is not punishing the employers who have genuine skills shortages and who are using 457 visas in the way the system is intended, but the government is ensuring that reprobate employers who abuse the system and shirk their obligations to employ Australian workers face the law in the strongest possible way. Although the opposition did not appear to be too interested in my answer, Mr President, I can assure you that this the highest of priorities for the Australian government. Despite their continual interjections throughout my answer, they show that they just do not give a damn about what is going on with Australian workers in the 457 class visa system.


Senator URQUHART (Tasmania) (14:14): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. How does the government respond to suggestions that it is making conditions for a 457 visa too tough?


Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (14:14): The Gillard government does not apologise for making jobs for Australian workers our No. 1 priority. Yesterday Senator Cash asked a question referring to the lower unemployment rate of 457 visa holders than other groups.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Lundy, resume your seat. Senator Lundy, continue.

Senator LUNDY: What we all knew, but of course Senator Cash did not, is that it is a condition of the 457 program that such visas are only issued to people who have a job. So it is not surprising that they have a low unemployment rate. But what is more disturbing about the false premise of the senator's question is that she seems to be suggesting that Australian workers are somehow less valuable than temporary overseas workers, and that is an appalling, disgraceful line of argument to be presented in this place. No wonder the Leader of the Opposition, her leader, says that 457 visas will be the mainstay of a future coalition government's immigration program.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: I will give you the call when there is silence, Senator Urquhart. Order!





Senator URQUHART (Tasmania) (14:15): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. What are the implications of not changing the 457 visa category?


Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (14:16): It is clear by the opposition's interjections in the Senate yesterday, and their opposition to a bill that supports local workers today, that they have no regard for Australian jobs. The opposition refuses to recognise that some employers are using unscrupulous practices to rob Australians of real job opportunities. In contrast, the Gillard government is committed to supporting Australian jobs, while the opposition continues to oppose—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Lundy, resume your seat. When there is silence, we will proceed. I remind honourable senators that time for debating the issue is after question time. If you have a contribution to make there is a full half-hour then in which to debate the issues.

Senator LUNDY: Perhaps the opposition will resist their interjections while I complete the answer to my question. They do not like to hear this stuff, Mr President. We are, of course, committed to supporting Australian jobs while those opposite continue to oppose the protections we are seeking to put in place. Let me be clear on this point: if an Abbott government was managing Australia's temporary skilled worker program it is clear now that it would be open slather. There would be no protections, no restrictions, bringing in whoever they want with no priority for employing Australian skilled workers first. That is not the way the 457 class temporary skilled worker visa system is supposed to operate at all. (Time expired)