Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull included Australian Values in new immigration tests announced this week but couldn’t explain what this meant. Later he talked about good sense, mutual respect, democracy, freedom of law and a fair go. None of these are exclusive to Australia. Most workers arriving on 457 visas are from democratic countries, such as India and the United Kingdom.
Proposed changes mean that the number of occupations where a worker can be recruited from overseas will be significantly reduced. Off the list are goat farmers, fire fighters, police officers, authors, actors, sports administrators, and divers amongst others. This is due to allegations that some employers exploit the scheme. The rules state that they cannot pay a lower wage to visa workers and must demonstrate a commitment to employing local workers with ongoing training for them. If a few aren’t following these rules then freedom of law and a fair go dictates that they should be tackled. Mutual respect would accept that most employers hire visa workers because they cannot find locals willing and able to do the job.
The current skills shortage list notes a serious national shortage in trades such as hairdressing, bricklaying, baking and butchery. This differs from the list of skills available for 457 visas. Good sense would be to merge the two then prioritise the key gaps and develop a comprehensive plan to address them. Such a plan should include options to train Australians as well as overseas recruitment.