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Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Page: 1910

Immigration


Mr SYMON (Deakin) (14:05): My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. How do the government's reforms to the 457 visa scheme work hand in hand with the government's agenda of skilling and training Australians to take on the jobs of the future?


Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (GortonMinister for Immigration and Citizenship) (14:05): I thank the honourable member for Deakin for his question and his ongoing interest in looking after Australian workers. This government will always support Australian workers in jobs and training. Although the 457 visa is often used legitimately, there is clear evidence that in some industries and occupations the 457 visa scheme is not working as intended. Too many 457 sponsors are doing the wrong thing. Two examples will help illustrate that. First, in the IT industry, it is clear that some 457 sponsors are using the scheme to undercut wages and conditions, in effect denying young Australians the opportunity to compete for entry level graduate programming and computing jobs. Second, in hospitality, it is worrying that at a time when vacancies for cooks nationwide are falling, the occupation of cook is becoming the most popular application job. That is a disturbing trend.

The government's approach to this is very straightforward. To get jobs you need skills, and to get skills you need training. That is why the government will expect employers to take seriously the obligation to train. The government is concerned that some users of the 457 scheme, instead of training Australian workers to fill positions, just buy those skills from overseas. Of course, that reflects the approach of the opposition, with state governments taking money out of training and cutting TAFE. 'No problem,' they say. 'We'll just get the skills from overseas.' That is not acceptable. The approach of the opposition to 457s is just Work Choices by another name—and it smells the same too! 'Just let the market rip, and don't worry about how unfair it is on Australian workers.'

In future, employers' access to the 457 program will come with an obligation to make a serious commitment to training their own workers, to training Australian workers, and the government will rigorously enforce—

Mr Briggs interjecting

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR: this obligation to train.

The SPEAKER: The member for Mayo!

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR: The contrast of this policy with the position of the opposition could not be any clearer. The Leader of the Opposition has said he wants the 457 scheme to be the mainstay of immigration. The member for Cook has said in a speech to AMMA:

At current levels of temporary labour migration under the 457 programme there is room for expansion.

Mr Briggs interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Mayo is warned!

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR: What the opposition is looking to do here is to have an unfettered and expanded scheme to ensure that—

Mr Morrison: It's a government program, you moron!

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister will resume his seat. The member for Cook will withdraw.

Mr Morrison: I withdraw.

Mr Billson interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Dunkley! I apologise to the member for Cook for screaming over his withdrawal—my apologies. The member for Dunkley is warned!

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR: In the same speech, the member for Cook said to the AMMA conference:

… it is essential we consolidate the role of 457s and look to restore access that has been taken away for these visas … and remove some of the blockages to 457s …

That is an unfettered approach that will deny Australian workers the chance of getting a job.

Mr Christensen: Madam Speaker, the minister was quoting from a document. I wonder if that document has cases of 457 abuses, or what he might do about the situation—

The SPEAKER: The member for Dawson will resume his seat!

Mr Christensen: Can he please table it?

The SPEAKER: The member for Dawson will resume his seat! If he is seeking for a document to be tabled, he can seek that, but he cannot abuse points of order. Is the member for Dawson seeking for a document to be tabled?

Mr Christensen: Yes.

The SPEAKER: Was the minister quoting from a document?

Mr Brendan O'Connor: I was.

The SPEAKER: Is the document confidential?

Mr Brendan O'Connor: No, I am happy to table it. I table the speech by the member for Cook to the AMMA conference, where he actually says he is going to remove all of the protections—

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume his seat.

Mr Christensen interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Dawson will resume his seat!

Mr Christensen interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Dawson will resume his seat! We are into our second question. This is an abuse. The member for Dawson is warned!