Australia toughens foreign worker visas: Australian jobs for Australians

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks as Immigration Minister Peter Dutton listens on during a media conference at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 18 April 2017

Australia toughens foreign worker visas: Australian jobs for Australians

SYDNEY: Australia will abolish a temporary work visa popular with foreigners and replace it with a new program requiring better English-language and job skills, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Tuesday.

Turnbull, struggling with poor voter approval ratings, rejected suggestions the visa policy change was in response to far-right wing political parties, such as One Nation, demanding more nationalistic policies.
But in a Facebook announcement Turnbull said: “Our reforms will have a simple focus: Australian jobs and Australian values.”
In a similar vein, US President Donald Trump was to sign an executive order later on Tuesday directing changes to a temporary visa program used to bring foreign workers to the US to fill highly skilled jobs. The order is an attempt by Trump to carry out his “America First” election campaign pledges.
Turnbull said the visa change would attract better-skilled workers and see Australians employed over cheap foreign workers brought in under the old 457 visa program.
“We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains — Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs,” he said. “We’ll no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians.”
The 457 visa was introduced in the 1990s to expedite the entry of business professionals and highly skilled migrants but over time it was opened up to include a broad suite of workers.
The program has become mired in controversy with allegations the visa was being misused by employers to import workers on the cheap, not to fill genuine skill shortages.
“We are bringing the 457 visa class to an end. It’s lost its credibility,” Turnbull said at a press conference in Canberra.
Anyone now in Australia on a 457 visa will not be affected by the new arrangements.
The 457 visa, now used by about 95,000 foreign workers, will be replaced by a new temporary visa and the list of occupations that qualify for a visa will be reduced from more than 200.
The new visa will be limited to a two-year period and a second four-year visa will require a higher standard of English language. From 1901 to around 1973, Australia restricted non-white immigration under a “White Australia” policy, which required an English language test.
The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), which represents more than 60,000 businesses, said the changes would improve the integrity of Australia’s visa program.
“The temporary skilled visa program should now be considered as settled without the need for further reviews and disruptive policy change,” said Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox.
Some experts said the government should focus on boosting education and training systems to address Australia’s skills needs.
The opposition was not impressed though. Labor leader Bill Shorten tweeted “the only job Malcolm Turnbull cares about saving is his own.”


Parents of Pakistan students in China coronavirus center vent anger at ministers

Updated 19 February 2020

Parents of Pakistan students in China coronavirus center vent anger at ministers

  • Health minister Mirza said he would convey the parents’ anger at a cabinet meeting on Thursday
  • Pakistan has said its embassy in Beijing is supporting students and a two-person team traveled to Wuhan this week to meet students and gather more information about their situation

ISLAMABAD: Angry parents of Pakistani students stuck in the locked down province at the center of China’s coronavirus outbreak confronted government ministers at a meeting on Wednesday, demanding their children are evacuated.
Pakistan has so far ruled out bringing home the more than 1,000 students in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, where three-quarters of the more than 2,000 deaths from the outbreak of the flu-like virus have been recorded.
Health Minister Zafar Mirza and Minister for Overseas Citizens Zulfiqar Bukhari briefed parents for the first time on Wednesday, telling them the students’ welfare was better off in China and Pakistan did not have adequate facilities to quarantine them if they returned.
But hundreds interrupted the briefing, with some seizing microphones to say they did not want to listen to officials until their children were returned and dozens flooding the stage to crowd around the ministers.
“Bring our kids back, they have been in lockdown for 25 days...they are not getting any support...from you,” one family member who took the microphone said.
Health minister Mirza said he would convey the parents’ anger at a cabinet meeting on Thursday.
Pakistan has said its embassy in Beijing is supporting students and a two-person team traveled to Wuhan this week to meet students and gather more information about their situation.
The overseas citizens minister and a spokesman for the health minister did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.
More than 400 parents traveled from around the country to attend the meeting at a school in Islamabad and around 100 protested with placards outside after the meeting, blocking a nearby road. Protests in the larger cities of Lahore and Karachi were held last week.
Many students and their families have expressed growing frustration as the death toll in China mounts, pointing to other countries, including neighboring India and Bangladesh, evacuating their citizens.
Muhammad Wasim Akram, whose wife is a fourth year medical student in the city of Shiyan in Hubei, said he had traveled five hours to the meeting but was left disappointed.
“I traveled from Lahore to attend this nonsense. I feel nothing (has been done)...shame on the government,” he told Reuters, adding students’ mental health was eroding after being stuck inside for weeks, while their access to food and bottled water was limited.