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Published 28 June 2013 07:57, Updated 04 July 2013 00:45
Industry groups have called on newly reappointed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to dump the Migration Amendment Bill to back his claims he would improve Labor’s relationship with the business community. Photo: Getty Images
UPDATED | Legislation to tighten rules around 457 visas for skilled migrants has passed through the Senate despite a raft of business lobby groups calling for the changes to be dumped by new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The legislation – known as the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013 – passed through the House of Representatives on Thursday by just one vote, with the support of crossbench MPs including the outgoing Tony Windsor getting the bill across the line.
Earlier it had been unclear whether there would be time for the legislation to make it through the Senate, which had been due to sit until 3pm on Friday.
But a Labor guillotine motion meant there were just three minutes of debate in the Senate on changes to the visa program before it went to a vote, AAP reports.
The bill is the final piece of legislation passed by the 43rd Australian parliament.
Writing in The Australian Financial Review on Friday, Australian Industry Group chief Innes Willox described the legislation as “ill-considered and unnecessary ”.
Growth in demand for 457s is slowing. In the nine months to April, the government granted 56950 visas to primary (excluding partner and family) applicants, a 1.7 per cent increase on the 56010 that had been granted a year earlier. This was slower than the 6.6 per cent increase on visas granted in the first six months of the year, government figures show.
Willox called on newly reappointed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to dump the bill to back his claims that he would improve Labor’s relationship with the business community.
“This union-inspired anti-business proposal was not supported by any proper evidence and was part of an orchestrated campaign to demonise the 457 program,” Willox writes.
“We would like to see a commitment to reverse these measures and would welcome further consultation on any reasonable proposals to ensure the 457 scheme works efficiently and appropriately.”
Business groups say the current system – designed to fill short-term skills shortages – works, and question government and union claims of widespread abuse of the system. Engineering lobby group Consult Australia’s annual skills survey shows that 59 per cent of Australia’s consulting engineering firms recruited between just 1 and 4 per cent of new staff from overseas during the 2012 calendar year.
In the nine months to April, the number of primary applications for 457 visas lodged by employers in the information media and telecommunications category - a leading indicator - stood at 5700, an 8.3 per cent decline on the same period a year earlier. The category makes up just over 9 per cent of all primary applications.
Speaking on Wednesday night after winning a caucus ballot to take back the Labor leadership from Julia Gillard, Rudd said that he could repair Labor’s relationship with business, which has soured in recent years over issues like the carbon tax and industrial relations.
“We’ve been natural partners in the past and we can be again in the future,” Rudd said on Wednesday
Other groups including the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Master Builders Association had also called for the legislation, which they says is being rammed through Parliament, to be dumped.
The CEO of Master Builders Australia Wilhelm Harnisch said Rudd was “not off to a good start” in his effort to patch up ties with Australian business groups.
Unions have backed the legislation, which they say is necessary to stop abuses of the visa scheme. “This 457 bill will help many Australians who are missing out on jobs due to the unscrupulous abuse of 457 visas by employers,” Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union national secretary Dave Noonan said.