The Turnbull government has reacted to increasing pressure from Labor and One Nation by scrapping the 457 visa program for skilled migrants, and replacing it with a tighter program.
“We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Tuesday.
The 457 visa, now used by about 95,000 foreign workers, will be replaced by a new temporary visa specifically designed to recruit the “best and the brightest” in the national interest.
Australia was a successful multicultural immigration nation but it was time to put Australians first, Mr Turnbull said.
“The fact remains Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs.”
Under the government’s plan the list of occupations that qualify for a temporary visa will be reduced from its current number of more than 200.
The visas will be limited to a two-year period that require previous work experience.
A second four-year visa will require a higher standard of English language skills as well as a proper criminal check.
The new system would be “manifestly, rigorously, resolutely” conducted in the national interest to put Australian jobs first, Mr Turnbull said.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the new two-year visa would not allow permanent residency.
Anyone now in Australia on a 457 visa would not be affected by the new arrangements.
“They will continue under the conditions of that visa,” Mr Dutton said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten slammed the plan.
“Make no mistake, the only job Malcolm Turnbull cares about saving is his own,” he tweeted
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson took some credit for the policy change.
“The government will deny their tough talk on immigration and plan to ban 457 visas is because of One Nation but we all know the truth!” the senator tweeted.
Mr Turnbull said Mr Shorten, as employment minister in a Labor government, was the gold medal winner of issuing 457 visas.
“The fact is that Bill Shorten likes to talk about Australian jobs, but whenever he’s had the opportunity in government to protect them, he’s failed them.”