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Scott Morrison warnings on 457 visa abuse

THE Coalition has warned employers who abuse the 457 visa program they will be punished as brutally as people-smugglers, prompting renewed demands from business for the government to urgently repeal Labor’s crackdown on the scheme for skilled foreign workers.

In his first speech on the issue since being sworn in, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison – who in opposition accused Labor of “trash talking” skilled migration by claiming 10,000 rorts of the system to justify its crackdown – said that industry and employers needed to make sure the scheme was not abused.

“While you hear me say very clearly the Coalition government under Tony Abbott is supportive of skilled migration, and has been consistent in thick and thin through various attacks particularly from the previous government when we were in opposition, I say this: If you abuse it then you can expect me in my first responsibility for law enforcement in immigration to be as tough on that as people-smugglers find that I will be tough on our borders,” he said.

“Because I know if the 457 program is abused it will be undermined and its critical value to Australia will be diminished.”

The comments renewed demands by business for the Coalition to turn its attention to repealing Labor’s crackdown on the scheme that introduced costly labour market testing requirements for 457 visas.

“While scheme integrity is critical and enforcement is a part of that, the most important task for the Coalition is repealing the unwarranted red tape imposed by the former government, including the ineffective and costly labour market testing requirements,” Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

Australian Mines and Metals Association executive director Scott Barklamb said the group had no difficulty with tough penalties for those who did not follow the law, as those resource employers who used the program “do so lawfully and responsibly”.

“The Coalition’s sensible approach is welcome by the resource industry, but there is some work to do in getting the policy settings right, most urgently removing the regressive and politically driven labour market testing measures introduced by the previous government in its dying days.”

Mr Morrison also used the speech to say that international students should come here to study “not as a backdoor to a permanent migration outcome” and to vow a “golden ticket” visa scheme targeting wealthy foreign investors from China, India and the Middle East would be “rebooted” in a Coalition plan to lure billions of dollars of overseas investment into projects that would stimulate the economy.

Under Labor, it took six months for the first visa under the significant investor visa scheme to be granted, even though there had been 435 expressions of interest during that time, and the turnaround time had been “far too long for a program such as this”, Mr Morrison said.

“No wonder they are starting to get cold feet and look to alternatives elsewhere,” he said. “Effectively, what I’m saying is this program needs to be rebooted.”

Mr Morrison said that 457 visas had been a mainstay of the skilled migration program since its inception in 1996 and that he wanted an end to Labor’s “attacks on skilled migrants”.

“We made our position very clear . . . I do not think there is any doubt where the Coalition stands in support of skilled migration in this country”.

He stopped short of saying the government would repeal Labor’s crackdown, telling ABC television the government was “looking carefully through those issues at the moment” and consulting with business.

He said that there was a distinction between “nuanced and effectively targeted law enforcement and heavy-handed regulation and red tape that stifles business productivity, ingenuity and creativity, which is how I would have characterised the laws the former government brought in earlier this year”.

Courtesy of The Australian –National Affairs

 Administrator’s note

Its good to see the new Immigration Minister talking tough about those employer (and employees)  who rort  the 457 visa program, and confirming the program’s  important position within the Australian economy, but it needs to act pretty quickly on some of the more extreme pre-election changes if it is to gain the confidence of business.

Clearly the outrageous fee increases in July and September 2013 (not only in the 457 program  but all visa categories) are here to stay because incoming governments will rarely make changes which restrict its revenue sources, but hopefully some sensible review of the union inspired and restrictive changes to the 457 program can be made beyond grandstanding in the press!