457 Visa Overhaul: How does it affect the transport industry?
By: Cobey Bartels
Limited impact expected as truck drivers are covered by other options
Malcolm Turnbull has tightened up eligibility
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this week announced changes to the 457 visa scheme, in what he says is a move to prevent holders of the popular working visa from taking jobs that Australians could be doing. “We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians,” Turnbull says in the video he posted to social media announcing the changes. Truck driving was not an eligible listed occupation for 457 visa holders, and also isn’t for the new replacement scheme based on what we know so far.
While truck drivers may not have their jobs directly affected, a number of road transport industry groups are still debating whether the inclusion of heavy vehicle operation within the occupation list for the new visa could address the skilled driver shortage. The replacement visa is more stringent, first issuing a two year temporary visa aimed to recruit the highest skilled workers possible, followed by a second four-year visa that can then be applied for if higher English skills are met and a criminal check passed. In addition to these changes, the list of occupations that qualify for a temporary visa has been cut by more than 200 – potentially making the progress more competitive.
The 95,000 migrants currently working under 457 visas in Australia will not be unaffected and will be able to apply for permanent residency at the end of their four year visa program. The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has long argued against including truck driving as an eligible occupation under what was the now abolished 457 visa scheme. TWU assistant national secretary Michael Kaine says it’s too early to make specific comments on what this would mean for the future of the trucking industry but says he is pleased the visa issue is being addressed.
“The TWU has never been an opponent of appropriate skilled migration but the 457 system and other visa rorts have allowed companies to undermine acceptable conditions and wages by exploiting workers from overseas,” Kaine says. “While we think this is welcome news, the union will continue to fight to ensure the Government is properly overseeing visa programs to stop transport companies from engaging in a race-to-the-bottom.” Australian Trucking Association (ATA) chief of staff Bill McKinley says while the abolished 457 visa and its replacement don’t include truck drivers, other labour agreements that do will continue to operate.
“It is currently possible to bring truck drivers into Australia under labour agreements where appropriate, and these proved invaluable for employers in regional areas during the mining investment boom,” McKinley says.
The announcement “makes it clear that these regional arrangements can continue where required”, he adds.