Gillard defends tightening of working visa norms

Gillard defends tightening of working visa norms

Defending her stand on tightening of working visa norms, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said her case for a crackdown 457 visa rules will ensure that jobs of the country go first to the local inhabitants.

Gillard said she will try to ensure Australia does not go down on a path where at one end, youths are deprived of training due to huge cutting of skill development funds while on the other hand, temporary workers are looked upon to fill this manpower crisis.

"The Labor Government is putting in place a package of reforms to ensure that temporary skilled workers only come from overseas when there is genuinely no local worker who can fill the job," she was quoted as saying in an ABC report.

Gillard was speaking in Canberra at the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Community Summit.

She also criticised the IT industry for overusing the 457 visa to recruit overseas workers where the jobs could otherwise be taken up by Australian citizens.

Gillard was qouted by a media report as saying that the use of the visas to temporarily employ overseas workers was growing much faster than employment in Australia was growing, -- 20 per cent year-on-year compared to 1 percent employment growth year-on-year.

The IT industry was the worst offender, Gillard said.
Pointing out that the IT industry brought in 5,800 temporary workers in just seven months, where there were just 4,500 Australian IT undergraduates in 2011, Gillard said the trend is not acceptable.

"The number of people coming here to fill short-term gaps should not be growing twenty times faster than employment overall," she said.

The Prime Minister said there will be changes to the visa programme, which will including requiring employers to demonstrate that they are not nominating positions where a genuine shortage doesn't exist.

The other requirements include ramping up the English language requirement for a number of positions, raising the market salary cap exemption from 1,80,000 to 2,50,000 Australian dollars and stopping employers who routinely abuse the 457 visa system.
The 457 visa is the most commonly used programme for employers to hire temporarily sponsor skilled overseas workers to work in the country.

Visa Holders are generally employed for upto three months to four years and are also allowed to bring an eligible family members to Australia, and those family members have unrestricted work and study rights.

Over 1,05,000 450 visa holders were in Australia as of January 2013, which is an increase of 22.4 per cent since January 2012.

Meanwhile, an independent MP Bob Katter has said that if his party wins the balance of power in the senate at the next elections, he would push for cutting down the 457 visa intake from its current 93,000 per annum to just 6000.