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Tuesday, 13 February 2018
Page: 968


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (18:24): I table a revised explanatory memorandum relating to the Migration Amendment (Skilling Australians Fund) Bill 2018 and move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

MIGRATION AMENDMENT (SKILLING AUSTRALIANS FUND) BILL 2018

The Migration Amendment (Skilling Australians Fund) Bill 2018 amends the Migration Act 1958 to provide for the collection of a nomination training contribution charge from employers nominating overseas skilled workers.

This measure is a critical element of the Government's employer sponsored skilled migration reforms, which ensure that Australian workers have priority for jobs in this country.

I now turn to examine the Bill in more detail.

Concurrent with the introduction of the Temporary Skill Shortage visa, the Government is introducing a nomination training contribution charge, to be known as the Skilling Australians Fund levy.

The purpose of the Skilling Australians Fund levy is to require employers seeking to access overseas skilled workers to contribute to the broader skills development of Australians.

From March 2018, it is intended that the Skilling Australians Fund levy will be payable by employers nominating workers for the:

Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa;

Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) (subclass 186) visa; and

Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) (subclass 187) visa.

The Skilling Australians Fund levy will replace the current training benchmark requirement, reducing the regulatory burden on employers and providing improved training outcomes for Australians.

Since 2009, employers sponsoring an overseas worker for a Subclass 457 visa have been required to demonstrate expenditure of at least one per cent of their business' payroll annually on the training of Australians, or alternatively, pay an amount equivalent to two per cent of their business' payroll into an industry training fund.

This system is overly complex and lacks transparency.

The Skilling Australians Fund levy will fully replace these training benchmark arrangements.

The creation of the Skilling Australians Fund aligns with recommendations by the 2014 Azarias Review of the Integrity of the Subclass 457 Program, and the 2016 Senate Inquiry into the exploitation of temporary workers in Australia (Temporary Worker Senate Inquiry).

The Skilling Australians Fund levy will offset expenditure from the Skilling Australians Fund, a training fund administered by the Department of Education and Training (DET), to support the skills development of Australians.

The levy is expected to generate $1.2 billion revenue for the training of Australians over the forward estimates.

As the levy will not be charged until March 2018, the Government will provide an additional $261.2 million in 2017-18 to the Skilling Australians Fund.

From 2018-19 onwards, the Skilling Australians Fund will funded by revenue raised from the levy.

The establishment of the Skilling Australians Fund will create a direct link between skilled migration and the training of Australians.

The Government is committed to skilling Australians so they can get jobs at all levels and occupations across the Australian economy. With matched funding from the states and territories, the Skilling Australians Fund will support up to 300,000 more apprentices, trainees, and pre- and higher-level apprenticeships and traineeships.

Spending from the Skilling Australians Fund will be prioritised towards projects brought forward from states and territory governments which support training in key areas, including:

occupations in demand

occupations with a reliance on foreign workers

industries and sectors of future growth

trade apprenticeships

rural and regional areas

people from targeted cohorts, and

industries experiencing structural adjustment.

All project proposals will need to demonstrate engagement with, and support from, employers and industry.

This represents a significant Government commitment to ensure Australians can gain the skills to fill Australian jobs and succeed in a valuable career.

Employers will be charged the Skilling Australians Fund levy for each overseas worker nominated to fill a vacancy in Australia.

The amount of the levy will depend on the size of the business and the type and duration of the visa that the worker is nominated for.

It is intended that small businesses, those with annual turnover of less than $10 million, will be required to pay:

$1200 per year for each temporary overseas worker

a one off Skilling Australians Fund levy of $3000 for each permanent overseas worker

Businesses with an annual turnover of $10 million dollars or more will be required to pay:

$1800 per year for each temporary overseas worker

a one off payment of $5000 for each permanent overseas worker

While the Skilling Australians Fund levy will vary depending on the size of the business and the intended length of stay of the overseas worker, it is in the order of magnitude of $4000 per worker recommended by the Temporary Worker Senate Inquiry.

The Skilling Australians Fund levy for the entire proposed period that the temporary worker intends to work in Australia will be collected at the time the employer nominates the overseas worker for sponsorship.

There will be no levy exemptions, reflecting the policy intent that employers seeking to access overseas skilled workers contribute to the broader skills development of Australians.

However, the Skilling Australians Fund levy will be tax deductible, and it will not be applied retrospectively —employers will not be liable to pay a levy for existing overseas workers unless the worker is nominated by that business for a new visa.

It is intended that refunds of the Skilling Australians Fund levy will be available in certain circumstances, such as where an employer's sponsorship application is refused.

The Bill also includes amendments which will improve the visa application process.

Specifically, the Bill amends the Act to formalise the current practice of accepting nominations for temporary overseas skilled workers by

businesses that have applied to be a sponsor or entered into negotiations for a work agreement,

rather than waiting for the outcome of that process.

These amendments will result in improved efficiency for both employers and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

The Bill also amends the Act to provide that the Minister may prescribe the manner in which labour market testing (LMT) must be conducted.

The Act requires that evidence of LMT must be provided with a nomination by a standard business sponsor unless:

an exemption applies due to a major disaster;

an exemption applies on the basis of the required skill level and occupation for a nominated position; or

it would be inconsistent with Australia's international trade obligations.

The Bill amends the Act to provide that the Minister may, by legislative instrument, determine the manner in which labour market testing in relation to a nominated position must be

undertaken and may determine the kinds of evidence of LMT that must accompany a nomination.

The matters to be prescribed in an instrument are expected to include the language in which a job advertisement must be written, the method of advertisement, the period the advertisement occurs in, and the period the advertisement must run for.

This Bill will ensure a uniform approach to LMT from employers seeking to access an overseas worker.

It will also ensure that the quality of the LMT being conducted is properly assessed.

This amendment will help ensure that, where LMT is required, businesses properly test the labour market before nominating an overseas worker for a prescribed visa and provide evidence of that LMT.

The Skilling Australians Fund is a further demonstration of the Government's commitment to Australian businesses and workers.

It will support targeted investment in critical skill needs in key regions and industries in the economy.

The administration of the Skilling Australians Fund levy will also increase the transparency and accountability of training contributions made by employers utilising the skilled migration program.

This will increase public confidence that skilled migration, and the businesses that bring in skilled migrants, are doing their part to help Australians prepare for the workforce.

I commend the Bill to the Chamber.

MIGRATION (SKILLING AUSTRALIANS FUND) CHARGES BILL 2017

The Migration (Skilling Australians Fund) Charges Bill 2017 imposes the nomination training contribution charge, as payable under new section 140ZM of the Migration Act.

This charge is to be known as the Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) levy.

The Bill is a complementary measure to the Migration Amendment (Skilling Australians Fund) Bill 2017, which amends the Migration Act to provide for the collection of the SAF levy.

The Bill provides that the amount of the SAF levy is the charge set in the Regulations.

The Bill also provides that the SAF levy must not exceed the charge limit.

The charge limit in the financial year beginning on 1 July 2017 is $8000 for a nomination relating to a temporary visa, and $5,500 for a nomination relating to a permanent visa.

In subsequent financial years the charge limit will be indexed by reference to the Consumer Price Index.

This charge limit provides flexibility for the Australian Government to make increases to the SAF levy in future while providing certainty for business as to the limited scope for a potential increase.

For temporary visas, the intention is that the SAF levy payable will be calculated according to the number of years, or part thereof, set out in the nomination.

The charge limit for temporary visas is therefore calculated with reference to the SAF levy for a large business, $1800 for each year of nomination, for a total of 4 years.

Debate adjourned.