Labor once again sets sights on 457 visas

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Labor once again sets sights on 457 visas

New crackdown to target abuse of program.

The Australian Labor Party wants to crack down on the 457 skilled visa program by forcing businesses to look harder locally to fill vacant jobs.

Opposition minister Bill Shorten has detailed his party's policy for tightening the 457 program through a bigger focus on labour market testing, citing concerns the program is being "exploited".

He said a Labor government would "toughen the rules" to make sure employers advertise and "genuinely" try to fill jobs with Australian workers before searching overseas.

The ALP's policy includes a mandatory requirement that all jobs be advertised locally first and for a minimum of four weeks, and that labour market testing is conducted no more than four months before a 457 worker is employed,.

The party also wants to ban job ads that target only overseas or specified visa class workers, and to target ads that set unrealistic skills and experience requirements with the intent to exclude local applicants, according to The Guardian.

Shorten claimed over the weekend that nearly one million people were coming to Australia with temporary work rights and getting "ripped off and exploited" while taking Australian jobs.

The ALP's policy would tighten legislation that Labor introduced and successfully passed in the dying days of its government in 2013.

Its controversial Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill forces companies to place local ads for jobs before looking overseas, unless the job requires a relevant bachelor or higher degree, or the position requires five years or more of relevant experience.

Shorten's new policy comes despite a recommendation by a 2014 review into the 457 visa program that the labour market testing requirement of the law be abolished given it was a big burden on business for little gain.

The bill had been introduded by former prime minister Julia Gillard, who accused the Australian technology industry of abusing the 457 program to the detriment of local IT workers.

As at June this year, there were a total of 94,890 457 visa holders in Australia, down 9 percent as at the same time in 2015, according to the Immigration department [pdf].

The IT industry is the biggest sponsor of 457 workers at 15 percent of the total program. At June there were 7530 IT workers on 457 visas in Australia, a 6 percent increase on the same time last year.

Most of those on 457 visas more broadly come from India (representing 25 percent of the total program), followed closely by the UK at 17 percent.

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