On Saturday, 23 February 2013, the newly appointed MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP, the Honourable Minister, Brendan O'Connor announced reforms to the Temporary Work (Skilled) (Subclass 457) program. The AMOU applauds the announcement, Mr O'Connor said "Labor's first priority is always ensuring jobs for Australian workers, and getting Australians in to work".

"It has become clear, however, that the growth in the 457 program is out of step with those skills shortages, and the Government has evidence that some employers - and I emphasise that word, some - are using 457 Visas to discriminate against locals. This cannot continue." "Australians deserve the chance to get local jobs on local projects and the Government is determined to make that happen".

"In this context, the Government has decided to introduce a set of changes to the 457 program to ensure employers give Australian workers a fair go."

Under the changes:

•Employers must demonstrate that they are not nominating positions where a genuine shortage does not exist

•The English language requirements for certain positions have been raised

•The enforceability of existing training requirements for businesses that use the program will be strengthened

•The market salary exemption will rise from $180,000 to $250,000

•On-hire arrangements of 457 Visa workers will be restricted

•Compliance and enforcement powers will be beefed up to stop employers who have routinely abused the 457 system

•Stakeholders will be consulted to ensure market rate provisions more effectively protect local employment

We note that the Australian Industry Group and the Business Council of Australia both released statements slamming the reforms. The BCA said "a classic regulatory overreach that risks damaging the competiveness and viability of important projects and business." Well that is just confirmation that the Honourable Minister O'Connor has made the correct decision, as 457 VISA holder can only add competiveness and viability to a project if they are paid less than an Australian!