THE Western Australian business community has given a mixed reaction to the latest review into 457 visas, the Deegan Report, released by Immigration Minister Chris Evans last week. Migration specialists and business lobbyists believe the review by industrial relations expert Barbara Deegan could have both positive and negative impacts for WA employers if its recommendations are implemented. The report suggests the abolition of the minimum salary level, a focus on permanent residency, and a move towards a risk-based approach. Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA executive director of economic policy John Nicolaou said other recommendations could add further cost burdens for businesses. "Overall, suggestions of removing cumbersome elements of the temporary migration are good, but there are additional costs for businesses with the payment of income protection insurance on top of the existing costs," he said. Mr Nicolaou said the creation of a new expanded list of occupations and streamlined labour agreements included in the Deegan report were positive elements for WA employers. But he doesn't think the Department of Immigration and Citizenship is the appropriate arm to be responsible for employer compliance, as suggested in the report. Interstaff International director Allan Hodder said there were positives and negatives in the report. "Making sure that the 457 visa has integrity is not an issue for us, but we have issues if the system was to be bogged down by the process and we are wondering about some of the recommendations," he said. The Deegan report includes recommendations on developing risk-based monitoring, limiting visa holders to a stay of no longer than eight years in Australia, while providing a pathway to permanent residency for those who have the required language skills. The report recommends the possibility that overseas workers could apply for a permanent visa based on their employment history and skills, without being sponsored by an employer. Mr Hodder said applying for a permanent visa without a sponsor was counter-balanced by workers having to apply for the visa outside Australia. He said other aspects of the report were a concern, however, such as the removal of regional concessions for employers. Mr Nicolaou said the 457 visa should be flexible and used for the purpose of bringing short-term labour to Australia. "We don't want to see the situation where it takes six months to recruit someone," Mr Nicolaou said. The Deegan report recommendations have been referred to the Skilled Migration Consultative Panel, which comprises representatives from business, industry groups, state governments and unions.
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