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New 457 visa laws put local lobs first



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THE HON BRENDAN O’CONNOR MP MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP MEDIA RELEASE

Thursday 6 June, 2013

NEW 457 VISA LAWS PUT LOCAL JOBS FIRST

The Gillard Government has proposed new laws to stop the abuse of the 457 visa system and enable the government to take stronger action where employers are flouting the law.

Immigration and Citizenship Minister Brendan O’Connor said new measures to tighten up the 457 system for temporary skilled workers would safeguard Australian jobs and ensure overseas workers were not exploited.

“There has been significant growth of the 457 system with more than 21,000 or 20 per cent more visa holders in Australia than this time last year,” Mr O’Connor said.

“At the same time there are even more sponsor employers who are doing the wrong thing.”

Mr O’Connor said the increasing number of 457s in low skill industries was of particular concern.

“Growth has been highest in the occupation sectors of retail and hospitality which have traditionally provided jobs for young Australian workers.

“Where Liberal governments across the country are cutting funding to TAFE and training, Labor is looking to protect jobs for the next generation of the Australian workforce.”

Mr O’Connor said a new Local Jobs Check would require all employers to prove that they have advertised for labour locally before sponsoring workers form overseas.

“Australians would expect that genuine efforts are already being made to fill vacancies with local workers, and those businesses that are doing the right thing will already be making genuine efforts to recruit locally first,” he said.

The new laws will also require employers to invest between one and two per cent of their total payroll each year into training local staff and those on 457s for the duration of sponsorship.

“It’s important that all employees are given the opportunity to develop new skills where possible so that companies can rely on a locally trained workforce,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Enshrining the obligations of sponsor employers in legislation, and empowering an additional 300 inspectors of the Fair Work Ombudsman to investigate breaches, will act as a further deterrent to those abusing the system.

“Currently fines of more than $50,000 apply to employers breaching visa conditions, but under the existing program few official sanctions are given due to the limited power to enforce or monitor compliance.

“With 15 per cent of current employer sponsors revealing they have no difficulty finding local employees, there is clear misuse of the scheme. However with only 33 inspectors Australia-wide to detect and prosecute employers all but a few in the current system are getting away with it.”

Mr O’Connor said the Migration Council report also found that 7 per cent of workers on 457 visas said their working conditions were not equal.

“A new 457 hotline will be established to report employers using overseas labour unlawfully, and for workers to report any breaches anonymously,” Mr O’Connor said.

“We are serious about making sure employers do the right thing, so Australian workers don’t miss out on jobs where they have the appropriate skills.

The 457 legislation:

 Enshrines the obligations of sponsor employers in legislation, and significantly strengthens the ability of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to prosecute employers who do the wrong thing;

 Empowers the inspectors of the Fair Work Ombudsman to investigate breaches of sponsorship obligations to the Department for further action, significantly increasing the deterrent to those who seek to abuse the system;

 Extends the period that a 457 worker can remain in Australia after ceasing employment with a sponsor from 28 days to 90 days and;  Introduces enforceable undertakings for employers who have breached their obligations, further strengthening the compliance capacity of the Department.

“This legislation presents a comprehensive package of reforms which will balance the interests of Australian workers with the need to strengthen protection for overseas workers,” he said.

MEDIA CONTACT Melissa Arch on 0439 438 126