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Sweeping changes to skilled visa system welcome

"The sweeping changes announced today to Australia's skilled visa system will contribute positively to delivering the skills Australia needs and they will further improve the integrity of the program," Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.

"The 457 Visa system was a highly valued program but misunderstandings of its use and exaggerations of its misuse led it to become a lightning rod for anti-migration sentiments.

"Ending that visa category, adding limits and more clearly defining its successor visas will help draw the focus back to the program's primary purpose: addressing the pockets of skill shortages that persist in our economy.

"Integrity measures such as requiring visa holders to obtain and declare a Tax File Number combined with increased scrutiny of business sponsors are simple ways to further protect against abuse of the system.

"Given that many of the temporary skilled visas holders move on to become permanent migrants, the stronger focus of the new program on attracting higher valued skilled workers will have lasting, beneficial effects for our economy.

"The new approach to the Skilled Occupation List will also assist in identifying genuine skill shortages and guarding against often opportunistic spikes in applications for vague or non-essential skill categories.

"We will need to monitor the language testing changes to ensure they do not adversely impact on access to skilled workers in the lower skilled categories. Many of our workplaces are multi-lingual and a working knowledge of English is sufficient in many cases to meet both operational and safety requirements.

"It is important to note that the Labor Agreement pathway remains an option for employers with critical skill needs that do not meet the standard visa requirements and they can also access the Employer Nomination Scheme.

"This visa reform package deserves the support of all sides of politics. The temporary skilled visa program should now be considered as settled without the need for further reviews and disruptive policy change," Mr Willox said.

Note: Innes Willox is also a Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration and Chair of Migration Council Australia.

Media Enquiries: Tony Melville – 0419 190 347