In response to the Federal Government's decision to scrap its 457 visa program, Labor leader, Bill Shorten, has sworn to mandate a new ‘SMART’ visa category if his party forms government.
In criticising the move to abolish 457 visas, Shorten’s SMART visa - Science, Medicine, Academia, Research and Technology - would be targeted at “world leaders” in those particular sectors wanting to work in Australia.
He claims the SMART visa would work to fix arising issues as a result of the 457 abolition such as universities criticising that the ban will make it harder to attract international academics.
The opposition also said the new visa category could be a solution to the critical technology skills gap in Australia in its smarter efforts to attract the “best and brightest” specialists in the fields from overseas into the nation’s private and public sectors spanning universities and research institutions to Australia’s science, technology and medical industries.
In addition, Shorten said a new labour market testing agency would be introduced in parallel; The Australian Skills Authority (ASA).
The department would determine “genuine skills needs and restrict temporary work visas to those areas” as well as slim down the list of qualifying occupations for temporary work visas.
Labor said other changes would be to implement higher visa fees and higher penalties for those employers who exploit workers on temporary skill visas as well as ensuring it would be “still possible to access the talent we need in certain industries.”
Specifically, the cost of a visa would rise from $330 to $575 under the Labor’s proposal.
According to Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, the new visa set to replace the 457 visa, the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (TSS), is aimed at better targeting genuine skills shortages, including in regional Australia.
“It will include new requirements, including previous work experience, better English language proficiency and labour market testing,” Turnbull said at the time. “To help train Australians to fill skills gaps, we will also establish a new training fund.”
“We’re putting jobs first; we’re putting Australians first,” he said.
However, this has been highly criticised by Australia’s technology sector as the provisions of the abolished 457 visa program are currently heavily leaned on by the local IT industry to recruit those skilled workers from overseas.
It is understood that, despite the Turnbull government cutting roughly 200 IT roles from the program, a large number of the IT jobs listed under the former 457 have remained eligible in the new program.