“It is focused relentlessly on the national interest and assuring that temporary migration visas are not a passport for foreigners to take up jobs that could and should be filled by Australians. Australian jobs for Australian’s first - that’s the focus.” - Malcolm Turnbull

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In an unexpected move, Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister of Australia, has announced changes in the immigration policies of Australia. The amendment to the law stipulates that temporary visas will be outlawed for skilled overseas workers. In the past, overseas workers were able to go to Australia for up to four years. With the new, stricter system, a temporary work visa could be limited to two years.

 

Engineering managers, engineering technologists and environmental engineers, however, continue to be eligible to apply for four-year residencies in Australia. Whereas 200 job categories were made ineligible for a temporary work visa in the future plan. Malcolm Turnbull says:

“The 457 visa will be replaced by a new temporary visa, specifically designed to recruit the best and the brightest in the national interest. The new visa will better target genuine skill shortages, including in regional Australia. It will include new requirements, including previous work experience, better English language proficiency and labour market testing.”

 

The backlash against the cancellation of 457 visas is growing, however, particularly as its removal will make it difficult for migrants to become permanent citizens. Writing for The Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter, Henry Sherrell highlights how important immigration has been for Australia in the past: 

“As a small, open economy, we rely on immigration more than any other major developed country in the world; over 28% of the population is born overseas. Removing the ability for many migrants to become permanent residents after spending a period of time in Australia will make it harder for employers and organizations like universities to attract global talent.”

 

The concern is that Australia will be less attractive to competent international higher education recruits. The category ‘university lecturer/research fellow’ was added to the Short-term Skilled Occupation List, which only allows for a two-year temporary visa. Professor Peter Høj, Vice-Chancellor and President of the Group of Eight - the group of Australia’s top research universities - spoke to the Guardian, saying:

“At face value the new technical arrangements for the temporary skills shortage visas and employer sponsored permanent skilled visas may make maintaining Australia’s international advantage more difficult. More broadly, the mere suggestion of the government clamping down on academic mobility into Australia could deter potential academic recruits to Australia.”

 

Turnbull’s about-turn on immigration is unsurprising when juxtaposed with President Trump’s ‘Hire American Buy American’ executive order and the UK’s Brexit negotiations.  They reflect a deep dissatisfaction in these electorates as a result of higher unemployment rates. There will be collateral damage: higher education institutions, for example, will be impacted if top-tier researchers, professors and even students are dissuaded from taking up international positions.

 

Works Cited

"457 Visas: All Australia Had to Do Was Hold the Line." Lowy Institute. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.

Doherty, Ben. "Universities Fear 457 Visa Changes Will Harm Ability to Attract Academic Talent." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 19 Apr. 2017. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.

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