On 18 April 2017, the Australian Government announced that the old Section 457 visa system will be abolished and replaced with a new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa, commencing from March 2018.

The changes are not expected to affect current s. 457 visa holders or their employers.

While in some ways this decision is driven by political manoeuvrings, it is also a response to a systemic failure to train enough Australian citizens to fill known job vacancies. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection states that the new TSS programmed will contain safeguards to prioritise Australian workers. Changes that help to ensure local people within our communities are trained, have jobs and other opportunities are always to be welcomed.

There are some immediate and longer-term implications for businesses operating in our industry. More than 200 types of jobs have been cut from the list of occupations that foreign workers can apply for under the new scheme. The old Skilled Occupation List, relevant to 457 visas, previously included 651 different types of work.

The new list of 435 allowed occupations will be named the Short-Term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL), and will be reviewed and updated every six months. The current list can be viewed at https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Work/Work/Skills-assessment-and-assessing-authorities/skilled-occupations-lists/combined-stsol-mltssl

Within our industry, the key change is the exclusion of Wood Turners from the new STSOL list, the relevant elements of which are displayed below.

Occupation

ANZSCO Code

Allowed under New TSS Visa

Carpenter

331212

Carpenter and Joiner

331211

Upholsterer

393311

Cabinetmaker

394111

Furniture Finisher

394211

Picture Framer

394212

Wood Machinist

394213

Wood Turner

394214

 

Other changes to the skilled migration programme include:

  • Applicants must have at least two years’ work experience and pass more stringent English language testing than was previously the case
  • Minimum market salary to ensure overseas workers are not used to undercut Australian workers
  • Mandatory labour market testing to ensure there is no capable Australian employee option
  • Strengthened requirement for employers to contribute to training Australian workers
  • Non-discriminatory workforce testing to ensure businesses do not actively discriminate against Australian workers
  • The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will collect Tax File Numbers and use data-matching with the Australian Tax Office’s records

It remains to be seen what is meant by the reference to “strengthened requirement for employers to contribute to training Australian workers”, and whether for example, this might mean employers are obliged to offer or provide apprenticeships or traineeships first, before seeking overseas workers.

During a live stream on his Facebook page, The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said the Government would establish a new training fund to “help train Australians to fill skills gaps”. He also stated there would be “…more to say about this in coming days and weeks”.

As a result, FIAA anticipates a series of announcements on these matters, and will keep members updated.