The Federal Government has scrapped the controversial 457 visa programme and indicated that foreign workers will now face stricter testing before being allowed to work in Australia.
Announcing the change, Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull said the new system will follow an “Australian first” approach to skilled migration.
The announcement comes as US President Donald Trump prepares a executive order that will crack down on “guest worker visas” and enforce a policy to “buy American, hire American”.
“We are putting jobs first, we are putting Australians first,” Turnbull said. “We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains that Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs.
“Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs, so we are abolishing the 457 visa, the visa that brings temporary foreign workers into our country.
“We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians.”
The decision has received some criticism from workers in the resource industry, which claims that skilled migration has become “fodder for cheap politics”.
“In this context, today’s replacement of the 457 Visa programme with a new temporary immigration programme will help ensure skilled migrants, and the significant contribution they make to our nation, is no longer trivialised and leveraged for cheap political point-scoring,” said a spokesman for the resource industry employer group AMMA.
“However, it should be recognised that the 457 Visa programme has worked as intended. The system was built to be responsive to changes in our economy and fluctuating labour demand, and has delivered on this objective.”
In Australia, the number of jobs eligible for temporary working visas has been dropped, with 216 occupations cut from 651 professions previously eligible for a 457 visa.