Australia Immigration

Rural and regional industries in Australia concerned about abolition of 457 visa scheme

by Ray Clancy on May 25, 2017

in Australia Immigration, Immigration Documentation, Jobs in Australia

Rural and regional industries in Australia are concerned that they will find it harder and more expensive to recruit skilled workers overseas because of the 457 visa programme being abolished.

From July 2018, the 457 visa is being replaced by a new programme that is divided into two visa streams, a short term two year temporary skill shortage visa and medium term visa.

(Goglik83/Bigstock.com)

According to Paul Shoker of New South Wales Farmers, there is a proven shortage of skills. ‘While we would prefer to have local workers, it is not possible all the time,’ he said. He also pointed out that some jobs change according to the season so it is not always possible to immediately employ Australians.

AUSVEG, the horticultural body representing Australia’s vegetable and potato growers, is calling on the government to ensure that rural and regional industries are not damaged by the reforms.

According to chief executive officer James Whiteside in remote towns growers rely on overseas workers to fill jobs for which they are unable to attract workers from the domestic workforce. ‘Modifying our skilled migration program without due consideration of rural industries runs the risk of having massive flow-on impacts to the productivity and profitability of these industries,’ he said.

‘Following the unfortunate saga of the backpacker tax last year, which ultimately stemmed from inadequate industry consultation, we’re eager to sit down with the government and make sure that affected industries are kept front of the mind during the process of any reforms to Australia’s worker migration system,’ he pointed out.

‘If Australia’s regional industries are to be internationally competitive in an increasingly globalised market, it’s vital that they continue to have reliable access to skilled and unskilled labour throughout the year to cater for the peaks and troughs in seasonal workforce demand,’ he added.

The latest available data provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, covering the last quarter of 2016 shows there are currently over 1,800 skilled workers in the Australian agriculture using the 457 visa scheme.

Whiteside explained that overseas workers are working in highly skilled positions such as agricultural scientists and agronomists. ‘The skilled roles performed by overseas workers are some of the lynchpins of our industry, and the workers coming to Australia under the current 457 program have helped to unlock huge productivity gains and support our growers through their expertise,’ he said.

A similar plea has come from the Australian Dairy Federation whose members are also facing labour shortages in regional and rural areas. ‘Our preference is always to hire Australian workers, but there are not always enough experienced farmhands to meet the demand of our industry. This is despite more than a decade of offering training courses and pathway programs for Australian workers to enter the dairy industry,’ said a spokesman.

The Cattle Council of Australia and the Sheep Meat Council have also expressed concern. ‘The industry has struggled to find domestic workers willing to undertake processor related roles and has previously managed the skills shortage using the 457 visa programme,’ said Cattle Council of Australia president Howard Smith.

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