457 visas a key election talking point

THE use of short-term workers from overseas appears to be cementing itself as a key election talking-point as Federal Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor used new visa figures to emphasise the need for strong reform of 457 visas.

Figures from government showed applications for the visas increased by 9.5% in 12 months, with approvals increasing by 6.6%

Mr O'Connor said as unemployment rates plateaued, it was time to protect workers from "unscrupulous employers".

"We know that in the IT industry, for example, 457 visas have increased by 68% while vacancies for local IT workers are decreasing."

The government reforms will force companies to declare they will hire Australians where possible, show their need for a 457 worker is genuine and ensure foreign workers are used in parallel with training for Australians.

Mr O'Connor told ABC's Insiders program, "You should not see such a huge gap between 457 applications and total employment growth, but you are seeing that".

He also attacked the Federal Opposition's position of holding the 457 visas as an important part of immigration policy, bringing in skilled workers to help with the Australian skills crisis.

Business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce Industry Queensland previously slammed the move as being anti-business, saying these employers were not opting for foreign labour over Australian labour, there simply was no Australian labour available in some regional and rural areas.

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