Immigration Changes: Supplanting or Supplementing Australian Jobs?

Ashish Nagesh

It is easy to turn our mind to why the 457 visa was created in the first place. To fill skill shortages in the Australian workforce. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton recently announced several changes to the 457 visa scheme and added criteria to citizenship. Many claim that under the veneer of this incentive is a xenophobic agenda. e Australian community has responded with vehement criticism of the changes. e government has cracked down on the skilled migration system intended to supplement the jobs of Australian workers and not supplant them.

The changes made are twofold. The first change is that the 457 visa would be replaced with two additional visas. Anyone with an occupation on the short term skilled occupation list (STOL) are eligible for this visa. e second change involves the medium and long term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL). The list of skilled jobs on this list comprises of 657 occupations, of which many have been culled. On a positive note much of the nation’s blacksmiths, cricket umpires and marine farmers can breathe a sigh of relief that the skilled occupation list cut did not go further. In regards to the occupations on the list, cooks were the most popular occupation upon which 457 applications were made, amounting to 6,770 applications.

Despite these changes, many argue the Australian dream for migrants has been replaced by the age old rhetoric used by politicians such as Turnbull and Julia Gillard of putting ‘Australian values and jobs rst.’ e reality is, too o en there is exploitation amongst various occupations in the workforce, and a saturated workforce in teaching and journalism has experienced an oversupply in labour. Misuse of the visas results in downward pressure on wages and what we are now seeing is Australia caught in a wage recession. It is Australian workers and students who are increasingly unemployed due to an oversaturated job market where many 457 visa holders overstay their visas.

Thee important question to ask ourselves is how these changes will affect the legal profession. There are two perspectives through which this can be answered. Jobs like intellectual property lawyers, conveyancers and legal executive roles will be cut from the list. Law is becoming a heavily saturated market with demand greater than supply. Law graduates from Australian universities will struggle to fond jobs where lawyers from foreign countries are working under MLTSSL and STOL visas. Foreign law graduates will compete for jobs against Australian graduates who can apply under the previous conditions and obtain permanent residence a er graduating.

What does Peter Dutton have to say to the changes and what powers does he have? The Migration Act 1958 confers upon him the powers to amend the visas and their criteria. Thinking back to Public Law, he employed his ministerial power granted by the Australian Constitution and stipulated in the statute (The Migration Act(Cth) section 505)) to set the criteria for visa applications. Dutton embedded Australian values in the heart of the visa application, inserting questions which both incite controversy and demand immigrants to assimilate to Australian values. New laws will mean skilled migrants will have to live in Australia for four years as permanent residents before they are eligible to become an Australian citizen. e threshold of the citizen test has increased and the duration of the four years will incentivise and provide families the opportunity to engage with Australian culture and values to before they become citizens of the country.

Engaging with Australian values is not clear cut but here are some of the new questions raising immense debate, that will be added to new visa applications.

• While it is illegal to use violence in public, under what circumstances can you strike your spouse in the privacy of your own home?
• Under what circumstances is it appropriate to prohibit girls from education?

Are these questions poignant and pandering to an agenda? Many people call it Dutton’s attempt to win back support from parties such as One Nation Party. Nevertheless, many Australians see these changes as representative of core Australian values to end domestic violence and achieve equitable education, and those who oppose these should frankly not be permitted to become Australian citizens.

The process becomes more difficult, with an added stand alone English test which is increased in difficulty and becomes a tedious process for those migrants who have already completed an English test such as the IELTS before acquiring their permanent visas. Hence, it is redundant to impose another English test on top of this. The changes will ultimately have an adverse impact on many occupations which currently employ 457 visa holders and have not been warned of the sudden changes; they will now have to re-evaluate their business goals and position.

Perhaps there has been an overreaction in the media to sell news and turn this into a sensitive debate. Despite some minor flaws with the implementation of the new visa changes, it should be welcomed by the Australian public, as cracking down on wage exploitation and increasing the agenda for Australian values is key to our nation. The 457 visa should not be ‘an easy passport to obtain Australian jobs.’ e changes will still allow Australian businesses such as the Association of Market and Social Research Organisations to nurture local Australian talent, whilst gathering overseas talent to complement the talent already employed.

The Australian government recognises the need for skilled workers and those with foreign experience, without which businesses cannot remain competitive on the global stage. e new visa program will empower businesses to to selectively recruit the best and the brightest skilled migrants to supplement our workforce, rather than supplant Australian jobs.