23/07/2008 - 22:00

Government flags changes to skilled migration program

23/07/2008 - 22:00

Bookmark

Save articles for future reference.

The federal government has flagged changes to its skilled migration program, including the temporary 457 visa, which it says will give the states greater control in recruiting overseas workers.

The federal government has flagged changes to its skilled migration program, including the temporary 457 visa, which it says will give the states greater control in recruiting overseas workers.

Speaking at a business forum last week, Immigration Minister Chris Evans proposed a more state-oriented skilled migration system, where state governments would be able to directly nominate skills for sponsorship.

Mr Evans criticised the occupations in demand list, currently used to award extra sponsorship points to certain vocations, saying the system needed to be more responsive and tailored to specific economies.

While there is little detail over how the new nomination system will work, Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA senior economist Nathan Taylor said the move to a state-oriented program would be an advantage.

"It's an excellent step towards defusing some of the political problems with the program," he said.

"However, we want to make sure that business is engaging in this process, rather than it being directed by the state government."

CCIWA has also welcomed a proposed trial of a guest worker program.

New figures from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship show WA is the second largest user of 457 visas, with 11,800 primary visas granted last financial year, a 41 per cent increase on the previous year.

The mining industry continued to be the biggest user, with just over a quarter of total visas granted, followed by the construction and manufacturing sectors.

However, the greatest increase in usage was posted by the health and community services sector, which nearly quadrupled its share of the total pool in WA, securing 1,150 visas.

Fitters, welders and registered nurses were in highest demand in WA, with the majority of visa holders coming from the United Kingdom (23 per cent), the Philippines and South Africa.

WA workers received a higher base salary on average ($74,800) than their counterparts in other states, with the mining sector posting the highest average of $105,200.

The proposed changes to the 457 visa follow last month's release of a discussion paper on sponsor obligations, which has drawn criticism from the Australian Mines and Metals Association.

AMMA principal employee relations consultant Geoff Bull said the report was too general in scope.

"It is a grab bag of any concern ever raised about the 457 visa, and a bit of an over-reaction to proposed legislation," he said.

"All that needs to be implemented are the penalty and compliance provisions."

Mr Bull said requirements for employers to pay airfares, health insurance and education for minors were of particular concern.

"It doesn't recognise that in the resources sector, we've got people earning very generous amounts of money," he said.

"We're bringing in professionals - geologists and geophysicists - and they don't need us to pay their school fees for them. There needs to be a threshold."

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options