PM calls out IT industry on 457 visa workers
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been calling for a crackdown of the program, and continued her argument this week in a speech on Thursday to the ACTU Community Summit On Creating Secure Jobs and a Better Society.
What was interesting in her remarks was that she spoke specifically about the IT industry. "Outside the resource states of Queensland and Western Australia, the single largest sector for temporary overseas work isn’t mining – or even construction – it is information technology," said Ms Gillard.
The prime minister went on to note that in the last seven months 5,800 temporary IT workers had been brought into the country from overseas. In comparison, the whole of 2011 saw just 4,500 Australian IT students graduate.
"It is just not acceptable that information technology jobs, the quintessential jobs of the future, the very opportunities being created by the digital economy, precisely where the big picture is for our kids, should be such a big area of imported skills," Ms Gillard added.
The Labor government has promised a package of reforms which will ensure that 457 visas are only issued where there is no Australian worker that can fill the job. It is proving to be a quite controversial topic, and the Australian Industry Group released a statement last week on the public debate which has ensued in recent weeks.
"The skilled migration system is too important to the Australian economy to be dragged into the broader immigration debate. It is giving an unwelcome platform to xenophobes and zealots opposed to immigration in any form," said Ai Group chief executive Innes Wilcox in a statement issued March 6.
Mr Wilcox said that the number of 457 visa holders currently in the country was the same as before the GFC, and that there would be a huge economic cost to stopping the system.