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CE & IT Industry Set To Be Hit By 457 Visa Changes

CE & IT Industry Set To Be Hit By 457 Visa Changes

In what was one of Kevin Rudd’s first parliamentary duties following his appointment as Prime Minister last week, his Government endorsed Julia Gillard’s crackdown on claimed misuse of the 457 skilled workforce via visa schemes by forcing it through Parliament in the dying hours of the recent session.

The changes, which the Opposition says are aimed at choking the 457 visa scheme – widely used in the ITC industries – passed through the lower house on its final sitting day on Thursday, and the Senate – sitting an extra day – did likewise late on Friday.

The Greens and crossbench Senators Nick Xenophon and John Madigan supported the bill, which provides that employers must prove they searched for Australian workers, before hiring temporary workers from overseas on 457 visas.

Employers will also have to spend a percentage of their total payroll on training local staff and 457 visa holders. Fair Work inspectors will investigate potential breaches.

The Government claims there is widespread rorting of the scheme at the expense of Australian jobs. The Tony Abbott-led Opposition fought the legislation all the way and called divisions at every opportunity.

The Australian Information Industry Association is unhappy about the changes. CEO Suzanne Campbell issued a statement saying the technology industry in Australia had been singled out with a “combination of excessive and at times heavy-handed regulation” on issues like 457 visas, taxation and local pricing.

The “457 visas solve the immediate skills shortage issue local organisations are facing,” she said. “The longer-term solution to this issue is systemic changes [but] this will take time and the industry must not be stalled in the meantime.”

Initially, it had appeared the policy might have been dumped by Rudd, because the final stages of the legislation weren’t listed on the lower house’s program for Thursday. But it did make its appearance – and squeaked through by a single vote, 73-72, with the support of crossbench MPs Tony Windsor, Craig Thomson, Bob Katter and Andrew Wilkie.