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An Australian Senate report recommended passing new laws to deter the misuse of the temporary skilled worker visa system. The laws, proposed by Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor, call for all jobs to be advertised in Australia first. Only when suitable applicants cannot be found would employers be able to source talent from overseas.
The Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List, which outlines job roles eligible for the 457 visa program, lists 742 occupations that employers can fill using temporary overseas employees.
University of Adelaide law professor Andrew Stewart says, “There’s something badly wrong here. We are moving to a situation where there is little to stop employers in a massive range of industries bringing in labour without having any meaningful attempt to source these jobs locally – and without any independent demonstration that there is a need to go overseas.”
Australian Industry Group chief, Innes Wilcox, says that the evidence produced so far of misuse in the visa program represented a small number of individual cases.
457 visas were first introduced in 1996 and reached their highest numbers in 2008, just before the global financial crisis. The current number of 457 visas is estimated at 108,000, just 2,000 below the peak in 2008.
More than 40 employers across Australia have been granted accreditation for up to six years to fast-track foreign workers on the 457 visas between September 2011 and September 2012. Among those accredited were IBM, Coles, Shell, and the State of Victoria’s Department of Human Services.