Election 2013 - Likely Changes to Immigration under a Coalition Government
By Mark Webster
Monday, 09 September 2013
In particular, we are likely to see a more favourable treatment of skilled migration from the Coalition, particularly in relation to employer sponsored visas such as 457 visas.
Coalition Reaction to 1 July 2013 457 Visa ChangesScott Morrison made a number of comments whilst he was Shadow Minister for Immigration indicating that he did not support the Labour Government's changes to the 457 program which came into effect on 1 July 2013.
He was also sceptical of Brendan O'Connor's statements about the widespread rorting of the 457 program - the then Immigration Minister had claimed that rorting was occurring in 1 out of every 10 cases. Minister O'Connor then had to back down from these comments acknowledging that these figures were "forecasts" and were not backed by the facts.
At the AMMA Migration Forum in Brisbane on 8 August 2013, Mr Morrison made a number of comments on the effect of the hastily introduced changes to the 457 program, including:
- That the 457 changes are damaging business confidence and threatening the viability of projects currently in the pipeline
- That Australia's competitiveness on a global stage is slipping
- Acknowledging that Australian business is competing for a pool of global capital and that Australia is running a risk of being overlooked because of our perceived high cost and low productivity
- That Australia runs the risk of projects, and Australian jobs, moving offshore unless immigration settings are changed
Clearly, the newly elected government will seek to reverse some of the changes introduced by the Labour Government in July 2013.
Comments made by Senator Michaelia Cash, then the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration, at the AMMA conference in Perth on 20 August also give some insight into the possible changes.
Application FeesSenator Cash made reference to an Edith Cowan University study on the true costs of bringing overseas workers to Australia. She also made reference to the WA Government recently introducing school tuition fees for children of 457 visa holders. Clearly the cost of 457 visas is on the radar for the Coalition. Senator Cash has also asked a number of pointed questions in Senate Estimates about the 1 July 2013 fee increases to 457 visas.
Whilst the Coalition has not specifically stated a position on revising application fees for 457 visas, it is hoped that they will at least consider this option.
Other Possible Changes to Employer SponsorshipThe New Government is likely to take a much more facilitative approach to employer sponsored visas. The following are likely to be considered:
- Revising the English language requirement
- Speeding up processing of labour agreements
- Improve processing times for 457 visas
- Looking at reintroducing regional concessions for 457 visas
- Considering introducing visas for semi-skilled workers
- Considering concessions for small business sponsors
- Simplifying the application process for trades workers
Labour Market TestingPerhaps the biggest target would be the labour market testing requirement for employer sponsored visas which was included in the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Act 2013. The labour market testing requirement would mean that employers have to advertise the position and show that they are unable to fill it from the local labour force before they look at sponsoring a 457 employee. This could potentially add months and thousands of dollars to the application process.
The labour market testing requirement is not yet in effect, but would come into effect within 6 months of the Act receiving royal asset - that is by 29 December 2013.
As the Coalition does not currently control the Senate, it is unlikely that they will be able to repeal the Act until the new Senate sits on 1 July 2014.
However, there is an interesting loophole in the Act which means that the Coalition could potentially avoid the Labour Market Testing requirement coming into effect. Labour Market Testing only applies to classes of sponsors specified in the Migration Regulations. The Coalition could simply not specify any classes of sponsors as being subject to Labour Market Testing.
Employer Sanctions and Sponsorship ObligationsThe Coalition immigration spokespersons have indicated a number of times that they will not relax the Employer Sanctions Legislation which came into effect on 1 June 2013 or the new Sponsorship obligations from 1 July 2013. The Employer Sanctions Legislation requires employers to verify that their staff have appropriate work rights both before and during employment. To quote Scott Morrison: An employer abusing the 457 program can expect the same tough stance from a Coalition government as anyone seeking to undermine the integrity of our immigration program.
ConclusionWe are still awaiting the announcement on who will be the new Minister for Immigration. However, comments from two likely candidates, Scott Morrisson and Michaelia Cash, suggest that streamlining employer sponsored visas and reversing some of the changes introduced by the Labour government in July 2013 will be a priority.
We will be posting updates on this website when we have more details, but from what is known so far, the impact on skilled migrants and employers will be positive.
ReferencesScott Morrison's Comments at AMMA Conference in Brisbane, 8 August 2013
AMMA blog entry on Scott Morrison, Michaelia Cash and Gary Gray
Edith Cowan University Report on the Cost/Benefit of 457 Visa Workers in the Western Australian Resources Industry
ABC - Cost of 457 visas scrutinised at Senate estimates
Immigration report finds 457 visas rarely rorted