Govt calls on Aussie tech players to speak up over 457 visa abolition

Australian channel partners may yet get the chance to have their say over the Federal Government’s move to scrap its 457 visa program

Australian channel partners may yet get the chance to have their say over the Federal Government’s move to scrap its 457 visa program.

On 18 April, Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, flagged plans to abolish the country’s Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) visa program, the provisions of which are frequently used by the local IT industry to recruit skilled workers from overseas.

While the announcement met with mixed reactions from industry across the board, members of the local tech community had some stern things to say about the move.

Now, Australia’s Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Arthur Sinodinos, has conceded that there has been debate in the local tech community around some of the measures, and that he intends to engage in a dialogue with industry representatives on the matter.

“There will be a further process, and I’ll certainly be encouraging the tech community to communicate with me about their issues to make sure that we’re not throwing out the baby with the bathwater in making these changes,” Sinodinos said in an interview with ABC Radio on 20 April.

“What I’m saying to the tech sector is we don’t want any unintended consequences with this, and therefore I will engage in a dialogue with them to make sure that we are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” he said.

At the same time, however, Sinodinos reiterated the government’s desire to work with industry in a bid to get more Australian citizens trained up in the areas that are currently experiencing skills shortages.

“We’re putting an obligation on ourselves as a government and the community on training and the upgrading of skills of our own domestic workforce so they can fill more of these jobs,” he said, foreshadowing funding in the upcoming budget for such training programs.

The comments come just days after the government revealed plans to replace the current 457 visa program with two new classes of visa, a short-term visa, allowing for a period of up to two years medium-term replacement visa option will last for a period of up to four years.

From 19 April, the occupation lists that underpin the 457 visa provisions will be condensed from 651 to 435 occupations, with 216 occupations removed, and access to 59 other occupations restricted.

Among the jobs titles removed entirely from the list of eligible skilled occupations under the scheme are ICT support and test engineer, ICT support technician and telecommunications technician.

The new visa regime will also include a strengthened training obligation for employers sponsoring foreign skilled workers to provide enhanced training outcomes for Australians in high-need industries and occupations.

The move to scrap the 457 visa came two days before the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network (ACSGN), which was established by the government. It suggested that Australia could make better use of foreign professionals to reverse the 'brain drain' using mechanisms such as the 457 visa program.