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Wednesday, 9 May 2018
Page: 3392


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (09:58): Labor has successfully amended this bill, the Migration Amendment (Skilling Australians Fund) Bill 2018, in the Senate to ensure that local workers are given the first opportunity to apply for a local job, before an employer can apply to bring in an overseas worker. We're pleased the government has been dragged kicking and screaming to these amendments, and we're pleased they've changed their mind in relation to this issue. We have always believed in genuine labour market testing for employers nominating overseas workers and we fought for it every step of the way, including across two days in this chamber.

Labour market testing requires employers wanting to bring in overseas workers to test the local labour market first. This is to make sure there are no suitable qualified and experienced local workers readily available to fill those positions, prior to bringing in overseas workers. The Turnbull government did not legislate strict labour market testing in the original legislation, and that's why the debate took place across two days. Labor don't trust the government in relation to this issue—or their big-business budget—and we never have; that's why we moved amendments to protect local workers.

The successful amendments will ensure that labour market testing is advertised for a minimum of four weeks, has been conducted no more than four months before the nomination of a worker on a skilled visa and is targeted in a such a way that a significant portion of suitably qualified and experienced Australian citizens or Australian permanent residents would be likely to be informed about the position. They will ensure that there are not unrealistic and unwarranted skills and experience requirements for vacant positions with the effect of excluding otherwise suitable Australian applicants.

The Turnbull government have failed to protect local workers in their getting the first shot at local jobs. Labor's strict labour-market-testing conditions will ensure that local workers get the first shot at these jobs. We're pleased the government have changed their position. We had to beat them 38-28 in the Senate, and we're pleased that they've accepted these amendments.

The budget confirms our long-held belief that the Turnbull government botched their skilled migration changes and that their reliance on visa levies is deeply flawed, with $270 million in cuts to the Skilling Australians Fund uncovered in the Turnbull government's big-business budget. That's the subject of the debate before the chamber today. The Turnbull government's mistakes have forced them to make further skilled migration changes in the budget, such as refund and exemption provisions, leaving $270 million less going towards skills and training of young and working-class Australians. Because of this unfair budget, big business gets an $80 billion handout while Australians miss out on essential skills and training that should last a lifetime and lead to real jobs with decent wages.

The Turnbull government even admit in the budget papers their failure to get their act together, by blaming delays in the passage of enabling legislation. They could have accepted our amendments a long time ago when we proposed them, but, reluctantly, stubbornly and obstinately, they refused to accept them, and finally today they have agreed. The budget proves that the Turnbull government's Skilling Australians Fund, their primary source of funding for apprenticeships and traineeships, is deeply flawed and insecure because of its reliance on visa levies from overseas workers.

Only Labor will guarantee funding for TAFE and skills regardless of the number of overseas workers coming to this country. We're pleased that the government have changed their position, and we're happy to support the amendments.

Question agreed to.