Coalition supports 457 visa changes

By Daniel Hurst, Federal political reporter

May 4, 2013

DanielHurstThe opposition has backed most of the government’s planned changes to the 457 visa scheme, calling the reforms sensible ”housekeeping”.

The crackdown on the temporary foreign worker program initially attracted criticism from business groups and the opposition. It was claimed Prime Minister Julia Gillard was demonising foreigners and ”trashing skilled migration”.

Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison maintains his attack on the government’s ”inflammatory rhetoric” but has used the release of an internal report to signal his support for most of the changes.

The discussion paper, prepared by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in December, outlined 12 options for tightening the 457 visa scheme but said verified cases of employers discriminating in favour of overseas workers were ”rare”.

Mr Morrison said the paper outlined detail that was lacking when Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor announced tighter measures in February.

”There is a lot of commonsense and routine housekeeping that is summarised in these measures,” Mr Morrison said.

He suspected if there had not been a change of minister and political approach the ”measures probably would have progressed with little fanfare at all”.

The proposals include toughening the department’s ability to enforce company pledges not to favour overseas workers over local workers; strengthening training rules and improving powers to refuse visa applications.

Mr O’Connor said the paper showed the department had identified problems and most of the reforms he announced were flagged in the document. But he admitted his claim that 457 visas may have been used illegitimately more than 10,000 times was his own ”estimate” and he did not have ”an exact, precise number”.

 

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