Dear subscribers, welcome to the November edition of Immigration News! 

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Recently, there has been a review of the 457 visa programme which included the settings of the Temporary Salary Market Income Threshold (TSMIT).

This is such an important and critical issue for the future of South Australia, and it is of great concern to me that matter does not appear to be receiving due consideration by the Federal Government.

Currently the TSMIT has a national benchmark of $53,900.00. The problem experienced in SA and other regional and low population growth areas of Australia is that current market salary rates and/or award payments are less than this amount, rendering certain roles, jobs and occupations unable and ineligible to access the 457 visa program.

This has an incredibly negative impact on any employer who is unable to fill key roles within a business, as well as a broader negative economic impact on productivity, GDP and population in our regions.

Over many years with the Minister and Assistant Minister, it was mooted that changes would be made to the salary requirements for the 457 visa. However, regrettably, it appears that there will be no change to the current setting to the salary requirements to the 457.

I am not suggesting or advocating that foreign workers should be paid less than an Australian worker doing the same job. I do, however, believe that there needs to be two-tiered system of the TSMIT.

This is not a new idea. The Regional 457 program and regional remuneration was a key part of the Howard Governments highly successful regional 457 program which was introduced in 1996 only to be removed by the Rudd Government in 2008 after recommendations made in the Deegan Review of the 457 program.

I have met hundreds, if not thousands, of employers who are unfairly “locked out” of the 457 program and are adversely affected by the current settings of the TSMIT.  Restaurants, mechanics, carers, farmers, nursery persons are all examples of affected occupations, just to name a few.

I am not alone in calls for a reduction to the salary requirements in the 457 program. In South Australia alone, there is strong support from the Restaurant and Catering Association, SA Property Council, the Civil Contractors Federation, Master Builders, Michael Hickinbotham, the Primary Industry Skills Council, AUSVEG SA, SACOME, UDIA and Primary Producers of SA, just to name a few. The State Government and the Opposition have also supported a call for a reduction to the minimum salary level so that genuine vacancies can be filled where skilled workers are not available locally.

Having now read almost all of the submissions made to the 457 review (Robust New Foundations), I have found that the following industry groups and state/territory governments are also in support of further consideration about the TSMIT, reductions, the introduction of a regional TSMIT or otherwise show some form of concern over the current TSMIT settings:

  • Agrifood Western Australia,
  • Australian Hotels Association WA,
  • Australian Meat Industry Council,
  • Australian Motor Industry Federation,
  • Australian Racing Board and Thoroughbred Breeders Australia,
  • Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA
  • Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland
  • Chamber of Commerce NT,
  • Civil Contractors Federation
  • Department of Business NT
  • Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts (Tasmania)
  • Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy (SA)
  • Housing Industry Association,
  • Master Builders Association,
  • Migration Council of Australia,
  • Migration Institute of Australia,
  • National Farmers Federation,
  • Queensland Tourism Industry Council,
  • Regional Development Australia, Orana
  • Restaurant and Catering Australia,
  • West Australian Government,

Clearly, this is a significant amount of support, and doesn’t even include any individual submissions from SME’s that were also received.

The following recommendations and statements are contained in the final 457 report:

“That the government give further consideration to a regional concession to the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold, but only in limited circumstances where evidence clearly supports such concession.”

“In relation to the regional concerns, we acknowledge that, based on the evidence provided in many submissions, there may be merit in having a separate, lower TSMIT for nominations lodged for positions in regional areas”

Regrettably, despite an overwhelming amount of support locally and nationally for changes to the program, recent announcements and discussions with the Minster indicate that no change to the TSMIT salary rates for a 457 are forthcoming.

Scott Morrison, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, said at the Migration Institute of Australian National Conference 2013:

“If you run your immigration programme properly then immigration creates jobs. That is our history, that is our experience and that is our future.”

Finally, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s own Migration Procedural Manual states:

“The 457 visa is primarily intended to provide streamlined entry arrangements for businesses needing to recruit skilled staff from overseas on a temporary basis. The 457 visa program is designed to fill skill shortages that cannot be met from the local labour market”

Despite this, and has been indicated in many submissions made to the review of the 457 program, as well as in the final report;

“The 457 programme is not available to those occupations and regions where the market rate for that occupation is below the TSMIT.”

This is a very serious concern to South Australia and other regional and low population growth areas of Australia where genuine skilled vacancies exist. The program is not designed to exclude employers who are currently experiencing difficulties in filling a genuine vacancy within their business, yet unfortunately that is what is currently occuring in many situations.

Clearly the problem standing in the way of these changes appears to be politically-based. For the sake of South Australia’s future economic prosperity, I hope such agendas can be left at the door when it comes to future discussions surrounding Australia’s skilled migration program.

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