Michael Kennedy

Our “No Surprises” government, has surprised few people by continuing to fight on behalf of business against working Australians. So far, it’s been rather victorious, overseeing many Australians being put out of work, or should that be, ‘liberated’ from employment. The Liberals latest booting to the Aussie worker is to expand the 457 visa scheme via loopholes. A loophole existed, which allowed employers to hire more foreign workers than they applied for. The Labor government closed the loophole in 2013 after it had been exploited by companies in the mining, IT and construction industries. The program, designed to address a skills shortage, is sold to Australians as being limited solely to positions which cannot be filled by local talent, a last resort. A torrent of anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise and it is very clear that the 457 visa program is anything but what it is said to be. Reports of it being used to undercut local talent abound.

The Liberal government want to cut red tape, by removing scrutiny or penalties for hiring additional foreign workers above and beyond what was applied for. In other words, the Liberal party is decriminalising this practice, and deliberately turning a blind eye. This will allow business to hire potentially unlimited number of foreign workers in place of Australians. You can be sure that they will take advantage of this. With unemployment at 6%, and projected to increase until 2016-2017, this will only make things worse for us.

The Age reports…

A discussion paper in 2012 also found there was no restriction to the number of 457 workers a company could nominate once a sponsorship is approved.

In the same year, mining magnate Gina Rinehart famously warned that Australians needed to work harder to compete with Africans who will work for less than $2 a day. Yet in June, the boss of Ms Rinehart’s Roy Hill iron ore project, Barry Fitzgerald, backed away from using foreign workers on 457 visas, saying he was confident he could find the staff locally.

Before the cap was introduced in 2013, the number of 457 visas was quickly rising. In the financial year 2009/10 there were 67,980 visas granted. By 2012/13 there were 126,350 visas granted, statistics from the Department of Immigration show. 1

The 457 visa worker scheme has all but destroyed the IT industry in Australia, replacing local talent with cheaper imports of dubious talent. It has provided industry with tax payer subsidised labour. The “living away from home allowance” available to some 457 visa workers means that their rent and food is tax deductible. Some 457 visa workers report having more or less, all their living expenses tax deductible. The Australian worker cannot compete with that.

Abbott appears to be determined to destroy not just the unions, but the Australian middle class. To these neo-conservatives, the Australian nation is not much more than a resource for their favoured rich backers. The people of Australia are seen in the same manner as the dirt in the ground which is sold to China, just a resource, which can be replaced or cast aside. Lack of national loyalty by governments and by some business’s (many business owners, generally small or medium business still operate ethically) is causing a decline in living standards, and the slow dissolution of the Australian nation.

457 visa workers, whether from India, China, Ireland or Italy are by and large, not needed. With growing unemployment, the local labour is there, and many unemployed or underemployed Australians are more than willing to work, given the opportunity. Business, particularly big business, has little interest in these people, and prefer the government ship in ready trained and indentured foreign workers, and leave the tax bill to build the additional infrastructure to us.

The 457 visa worker program should be scaled back to only those positions where it is in the interest of national integrity. The program should not be used to allow a business to grow, business must grow according to the market, nor should it be used as a substitute for training local talent. Only in cases where urgent infrastructure is needed, and local talent is not a possibility, should guest workers be considered. Guest worker programs for any other reason invariably involve greater social and economic cost than benefit.

Why Visa Workers?

457 guest workers are supposedly to address skills shortages, but are often found in hospitality and in cafes

457 guest workers are supposedly to address skills shortages, but are often found in hospitality and in cafes

Over the last few decades, employer expectations and demands have become more stringent. A generation or two ago, unskilled or inexperienced workers, generally, found it easier to obtain employment. It was possible to simply walk into a factory and be hired on the spot. Job security and longevity meant more on the job training and specialisation. With deteriorating employment conditions and greater competition for work, employers have increased their demands. Employers began demanding prior experience, not just for senior level positions, but entry level and unskilled positions too. It is not almost impossible to find a job where no previous experience is required. The paradox is, one cannot get experience unless one gets a job first, but to get a job you need experience. Employers don’t want to take on the cost of training or having an employee get up to speed, so they expect another company to turn inexperienced workers into experienced ones. But with all companies doing this, it creates a conundrum. One can even see job ads for graduate positions, requiring previous experience!

The second issue is fewer employers provide on the job training, partly to reduce costs and partly because casualisation of the workforce means a lower return on investment in training staff. Trained staff are more likely to leave for a full time position for another company. If this is what staff will do, why train?

The third issue, is that employers often have unrealistic, often ridiculous requirements and criteria for potential recruits. Looking at job advertisements for professional positions, the range of experience and skills required for many positions, is often very specific, covering a broad range of disciplines, ruling out any candidate except those which had a very specific and varied multidisciplinary career path. The employer then complains about not being able to find suitable staff, thereby creating the impression there is a “skill shortage”, when in reality, the employer is simply being unreasonable to expect someone who meets their eclectic criteria.

A proposal

Dropping the supply of foreign labour will force local business to change their demands. Contrary to what Abbott and the Liberal party state, the issue regarding 457 visa workers isn’t that Australian workers aren’t competitive or innovative, they are, but that employers aren’t competitive, innovative or flexible. By dropping their supply of labour, business will then be forced to relax standards. The current paradox is that employers find it hard to get staff, despite a potentially large pool of potential candidates who are a near fit. Rather than dismiss the pool of ‘near enough’ candidates, the lack of foreign options will force employers to take ‘near enough’ candidates and fill in the skills gap themselves. Contrary to business fears that this will result or poorer quality outcomes, it will more likely result in a more skilled, more capable workforce as employed people are skilled up. These skills will be transferable and overall, results in a more capable and product workforce, which should offset the small costs in training. The benefits from training local labour are generally under-appreciated by employers. Conservative employment conditions are making Australian uncompetitive.

In addition, employers may become less risk adverse, and be willing to take chances on candidates who while not experienced, may have other potential. Employers will hopefully realise that taking a less conservative approach to employment can be quite beneficial.

The government should increase training opportunities, in particular for tertiary education and TAFE and other training opportunities for adults to re-skill. Incentives for companies who offer on the job training and tighter regulation of the recruitment industry. Lastly, the government should not pander to business demands for importing labour, when viable options in Australia are present.

Business’s themselves should realise that they are part of a nation not separate to it and owe a loyalty just like employees and the elected government do, to the national community in which it resides. Clearly training the sons and daughters of your national family is the correct thing to do, rather than ignore them and take foreigners just to save a dollar.

Australia through the hard work of its settling stock and other migrants later from Europe developed, built , died in 2 World Wars to ensure this nation endured. It is the collective personal sacrifices of our ancestors and those of us alive today that has created an environment with rule of law and little corruption (compared to Asia)  that enables business to operate and flourish in the first place.

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7 Responses to Liberal party to expand 457 visa scheme via loopholes

  1. Tommy K says:

    “guest workers”? Yeah right! Guest workers usually end up staying. You may s well add them to the perm migration numbers, because thats what they are. Future permanent residents.

  2. Lawrence says:

    Okay, so clearly what needs to happen is more effective competition. This means going to the dole queues and targetting these people that are underemployed and convincing them to work for profit instead of an hourly wage. This will have an incredibly productive effect on the unemployed and allow them to upskill quickly. It will also enable these free work businesses to take monopoly positions and generate bank free capital very quickly, as every other business will have to commit to paying award wage, unless they are willing to dilute their capital and have profits go to the workers.
    I predict that total renumeration for a profit employee would be much higher than equivalent salary.

  3. Democratoz says:

    Training is certainly important in helping locals qualify for work, but at the end of the day employers will always look for cheaper alternatives. 457 visas make it cheaper to buy in experience from ‘low cost centres’ than to train our own school leavers. This is why we have a burgeoning youth unemployment rate side-by-side with historically high levels of legal immigration. The trot left and corporate right are – as usual – in lockstep agreement about the desirability of this repugnant reality.
    Another – less well documented – effect of the ongoing importation of cheap labour is the resulting slowdown in technological advancement. Mark Krikorian in his excellent book, The New Case against Immigration, makes this point in detail. The history of human advancement is one underpinned by technological development. Where cheap labour can be substituted for new technology, the impetus for developing innovative labour saving devices is removed.

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