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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5257

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (19:40): Minister, there are many areas of your portfolio responsibility where there is a yawning gap between the facts and the fears. I would like to spend some time drilling down to some of the facts, particularly in relation to the 457 class of visa.

I know this has been the subject of quite some debate within the community, within the mass media and, indeed, within the parliament over recent months. I am aware that recently the Migration Council of Australia has done some survey work in this area of employers who have had access to the 457 class of visa scheme. I am also aware, and have made myself familiar with, some of the material that has been reported as a result of that survey and other investigations.

I take the view that the vast majority of employers who are accessing the scheme are not rorting it, that they are using it for legitimate labour market shortages—particularly in relation to skill shortages. But I have looked at some of the areas that have been included in the report, particularly the growth in the use of 457 visas in the retail industry and in the hotel industry. Coming from an electorate such as mine, where there is above average unemployment—over seven per cent and higher in some suburbs, and even higher again when it comes to youth unemployment—I find it very difficult to believe that there are not people, particularly young people, who are ready, willing and able to perform some of the jobs that have applied for access to 457-visa workers.

I would be interested in hearing your response to that issue. I know that you have been working on a proposed raft of reforms to the 457-visa category. I would be interested to know whether in putting together those reforms that you have appraised yourself of similar schemes that are operating in other jurisdictions and in other countries, and the nature of those schemes—any reforms that may have been introduced in other countries—and whether we are likely to see similar sorts of reforms introduced as a result of any package of reforms that you might introduce into this parliament?