Skills will be hit by visa curb

By Casey Neill

Changes to the skilled foreign worker visa system will hurt Greater Dandenong businesses, particularly manufacturers.
This was the message from South East Melbourne Manufacturers Alliance (SEMMA) and Dandenong-based law firm Macpherson Kelley.
“I came over on a 457 visa,” SEMMA executive officer Adrian Boden revealed.
The Brit was employed as the vice president of engineering for PBR, now Chassis Brakes International, in 2004.
“I was coming from a multinational, European background with brakes,” he said.
“I think I brought something to the community which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I hadn’t stayed on afterwards.”
Mr Boden said he was still seeking more information about the changes and their impacts, but “I can’t see the advantage of doing the two-year visa”.
The 457 visa previously allowed businesses to employ foreign workers for up to four years in skilled jobs where there was a shortage of Australian workers, with eligibility for Permanent Residency application after two years.
Under changes announced on Tuesday 18 April, the 457 system will be abolished and replaced with the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa in March next year.
TSS will include a short-term stream, for up to two years’ work, and a medium-term stream, for up to four years, plus safeguards to prioritise Australian workers and more targeted occupation lists.
The medium-term stream will include a permanent residence pathway after three years.
“I think it would be incredibly negative for the businesses in this area,” Mr Boden said.
“You won’t get a skilled overseas worker relocating for two years.
“We have lots of people who need skilled workers.”
Macpherson Kelley Victorian managing principal Jamie Sturgess said the firm assisted businesses with more than one 457 visa every week.
“There’s a whole host of issues that make recruiting from overseas more difficult than recruiting locally,” he said.
“If you could have an apple in Australia, you’d be stupid if you chose the foreign apple rather than the local apple.”
Mr Sturgess said production manager was one role that had been removed from the jobs list.
“Imagine if we could recruit the best production managers anywhere in the world for roles in Australia and then they teach everyone who works under them their absolute world’s best practice,” he said.
“Australia will become a better, stronger, wealthier country if we have more talent across the board.
“We should be saying to the world ‘this is the best country in the world to live in, and if you are an incredibly talented person that wants to come here and make this home for the rest of your life and contribute back to this community with your sensational skills, in a multitude of ways’ (you are welcome).
“We’re saying ‘no’, whereas I think we should be saying ‘yes’.”
In relation to manufacturing, Macpherson Kelley workplace relations principal Andrew Douglas said: “Australia is still fairly new to transformative value-added manufacturing and we just don’t have the skills base.
“We need to be able to attract the workers that will facilitate the transition like engineers, designers and others because we’re a small economy.”