CENTRAL Victorian nursing, aged care, disability, hospitality and agricultural sectors will be keeping a close eye on further details of the government’s plan to abolish and replace the 457 visa program.
Other employers, including Bendigo Bank and piggeries, are also significant users of the visa scheme, slated to be replaced by a temporary skill shortage visa.
Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon, saying the plan would put “Australians first”.
But National Rural Health Alliance chief executive officer David Butt said abolishing the 457 visa would have a “significant impact” on recruiting health professionals in rural Australia.
“I would love to be in the situation where we rely on locally trained health professionals to fill all vacancies in rural and remote communities but that is still many years away,” he said.
“Without overseas trained health professionals, many rural and remote communities would simply be without access to health care.
“Whatever replaces the 457 visa must ensure we do not put the health of these seven million people at further risk.”
The plan includes a requirement for visa applicants to have at least two years work experience in their field, a minimum salary rate to avoid undercutting Australian workers, and tightened English language requirements.
Regional employers will continue to have access to occupations under the temporary and permanent visas.
Mr Turnbull also announced “mandatory labour market testing”.
Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said there was a lack of detail.
“It mentions some labour market testing, but how vigorous will that be? It could just be an ad in the paper,” she said.
Businesses in central Victoria were among many to be scrutisined for allegedly exploiting foreign workers, mostly on the 417 working holiday visa.
Ms Chesters said the announcement failed to mention exploitation.
“They haven’t said how they will address exploitation of visa workers,” she said.
“This is not a new story. They have ignored the Fair Work Ombudsman’s report until now.
“They are changing the name of the visa, but will it change the impact?”
The Fair Work Ombudsman’s report from 2015 found one in five migrant workers on the 457 visa were found to be incorrectly employed or underpaid, based on a series of audits.
The government has promised to start implementing the changes “immediately”, to be completed by March next year.