The coalition has refused to commit to reducing application fees for 457 visa workers if elected to government, despite flagging plans to make the scheme more “user-friendly”.
Speaking at an Australian Mines and Metals Association forum in Perth this morning, shadow parliamentary secretary for immigration Michaelia Cash said a coalition government, if elected, was likely to be constrained in the near-term by a hostile Senate and a tough economic climate.
“In relation to fees that the federal government has control of, that is something that a Coalition government will look at,” Senator Cash said.
“Whether or not we can change them in the current economic environment is another thing.”
Senator Cash said it was essential that employers had easy access to temporary skilled workers, particularly in regional areas and mining states.
The federal government announced in its economic statement earlier this month that it would raise $542 million in revenue over four years by increasing application charges for a range of visas, including taking the 457 visa base application charge from $900 to $1,035.
The application charge for 457 visas had just months earlier been doubled from its original rate of $450 as part of the federal budget.
Resources Minister Gary Gray told the forum the issue of temporary migrant workers remained highly contentious in his working-class electorate of Brand, which he will face a tough battle to retain at the September 7 election.
“Before you can do things like support very large numbers of workers coming in on 457 visas, you do have to accept that there is a need for community support,” Mr Gray said.
“In the quiet and comfortable surrounds of corporate Australia, I’m not really sure that people are exposed often enough to the world in which I live, which is a world of increasing unemployment and of people with skills who contact companies to try to get employment onto mine sites and onto construction but don’t get sponsors.”
Mr Gray also expressed his condolences to a miner killed whilst working overnight at Fortescue Metals Group's Christmas Creek operation in the Pilbara, in what was the first fatality on a WA mine site in two years.
Both Mr Gray and Senator Cash declined to comment on the Barnett government’s decision last week to introduce a new $4,000 school fees charge for children of 457 workers, stating that this was a matter for the state government to decide.