AUSTRALIA will miss out on highly-skilled new citizens due to the Federal Government’s decision to change work visa requirements according to the Willetton-based peak body representing Indians in WA.
Indian Society of Western Australia president Ramkrishna Bansal said the Indian community in Perth was upset and disappointed at the government’s decision to abolish the 457 visa.
“The old 457 visa was seen as a pathway to permanent citizenship,” he said.
“We are going to restrict the inflow of these talented people and we will miss out as a country.”
Last month Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull abolished the 457 visa for skilled workers, replacing it with shorter-term visas that make it harder to gain permanent residency, as well as a reduction in the number of skills eligible for the visa.
Last week India’s Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi expressed concern to Mr Turnbull about the possible impact of the recent changes in Australian regulations for the skilled professionals’ visa program. Mr Bansal said Mr Modi’s comments were expected, given the large population of Indians living in Australia.
Of the 457 visa holders presently in the country he said approximately one quarter were Indian nationals with the ratio of Indians on 457 visas in WA being higher due to the recent mining boom.
He said many Indian professionals including engineers, doctors, accountants, architects and chefs, who had come to Australia on 457 visas had become permanent residents and were great citizens.
Mr Bansal said a large community of Indians lived in City of Canning suburbs including Willetton, Riverton and East Cannington.
“The new visa is going to become much more stringent and target very, very high skills,” he said.
“Obviously if there is someone in Australia able to do the job and is available they must be given the job.
“The 457 visa already had a precondition that required a job be advertised here and if you could not find enough candidates or a suitable candidate then you could get someone from overseas.”
The changes will also see a tougher English language test and he said while Indian nationals generally had good English writing skills, when it came to speaking the language many applicants might not be able to meet the new higher standard.
Mr Bansal said while a high standard of spoken English was an obvious skill if someone wanted to work as a lecturer, the same level of spoken English was not needed for some other professions such as engineering.
At the Federal Government announcement of the visa changes on April 18, Mr Turnbull said the 457 visa had lost its credibility.
“The fact is the migration programme should only operate in our national interest. This is all about Australia’s interest. This is about jobs for Australians. It is about growing the Australian economy, so that Australian families can realise their dreams, that Australian businesses can invest and employ and get ahead.
“That is what it’s all about. So, this rigorous focus, this laser-like focus on our national interest will ensure that where skill gaps arise and can’t be filled by Australians, then foreign workers can come in, but not otherwise.”
Federal Liberal Member for Tangney Ben Morton said he supported the change but was frustrated with the unwillingness of some Australian to “get out there and work hard”.
“Too many times businesses have said to me they needed to rely on foreign workers because they could not find Australians trained or willing to do particular jobs.
“That infuriates me as a taxpayer because we are on the one hand paying welfare to people who can work but choose not to, while on the other hand businesses had to rely on 457 visa holders to do particular jobs,” Mr Morton said.
“My view is that any job is better than no job at all and that you are more likely to find your way into employment if you can demonstrate a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get things done.
“If someone has come here on a temporary visa and they have proven themselves by working hard, remaining true to an employer who has sponsored them and they have become part of their community, I think that is a fantastic stepping stone to Australian citizenship,” Mr Morton said.
The new Temporary Skill Shortage Visa will include higher requirements than the abolished 457 visa requirements including:
– a higher standard of English language skills;
– mandatory criminal checks;
– mandatory labour market testing;
– a two-year work experience requirement;
– substantial reduction in the list of skills that qualify for the visas.
There will be two streams – a short-term two-year visa and medium-term four-year visa.
Full implementation of the new visa will be completed by March 2018.