Horticulture joins chorus of anger at 457 skilled migrant visa changes

Horticulture joins chorus of farm anger at 457 skilled migrant visa changes


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Rex Airlines boss in happier times with Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce when they were celebrating the graduation of Rex pilots at the airline's Wagga Wagga academy. Mr Howell says the changes to the skilled migration worker scheme, and taking pilots off the allowable list, will hurt his industry and could force the closure of regional routes and curtailing of schedules.

Rex Airlines boss in happier times with Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce when they were celebrating the graduation of Rex pilots at the airline's Wagga Wagga academy. Mr Howell says the changes to the skilled migration worker scheme, and taking pilots off the allowable list, will hurt his industry and could force the closure of regional routes and curtailing of schedules.

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Four ag industries join together to attack changes to migrant worker visa scheme.

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“Show some common sense”`. That’s the cry from almost four major agricultural industries asking the Federal Government to rethink its decision to take numerous agricultural jobs from the four-year skilled migration program.

The horticulture industry is the latest group  to attack the decision to axe the 457 visa scheme - and now they have been further outraged after new visa application levies were imposed in last week’s federal budget.

Ausveg spokesman Jordan Brooke-Barnett said only about 1800 positions in agriculture were  used in the 457 visa scheme and now these roles were in danger of being lost.

“We simply don’t have the graduates in Australia to fill these positions,” Mr Brooke-Barnett said, saying these were farm manager and regional agronomist positions. Many of these places are filled by South African skilled migrants.

The Murray Valley is one of the hardest hit regions from  the visa overhaul which cuts out top agricultural positions from the four-year visa scheme.

“Ultimately we would like the Federal Government to review the policy so regional businesses are not disadvantaged. We are just looking for some common sense. We feel we are just being hurt because of the political winds blowing in Canberra.”

Mr Brooke-Barnett hopes the Department of Immigration will eventually consider some concessions for regional Australia under the scheme.

“The people we bring here are critical to our industry. There have been no rorts,” he said. 

The dairy industry has also been critical of the axeing of the 457 visa scheme.

Australian Dairy Farmers is concerned the increase in fees for foreign workers announced in the budget will be detrimental to the dairy industry.

Businesses with turnover of less than $10 million will be required to make upfront payments of $1,200 for temporary skill shortage visas (to replace the 457 visa), and $3,000 for employees on permanent work visas. The money will be used towards the Skilling Australians Fund.

“We believe the fee increase will place an even greater burden on farmers who have had to rely on skilled migration to bolster their workforce due to critical labour shortages in many dairy regions”, ADF chief executive John McQueen said.

The government has announced that the proposed new visa category will condense the occupation lists used for skilled migration visas, and will be divided into two streams, with a new temporary skill shortage visa that only allows one visa renewal to be paired with a medium-term visa that allows for permanent residence. It will also allow workers currently in Australia under the 457 scheme to continue on their current visa.

The pork industry has also highlighted the damage the visa changes will have to piggeries.

Meanwhile, the chief operating officer of Regional Airlines (Rex), Neville Howell dealt his own broadside over the 457 changes, which takes pilots off the allowable positions list.

Only two years ago, the Rex  boss  gave honorary flight epaulettes and wings to deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce at the graduation of pilots at Rex’s $38m pilot academy in Wagga.

Now he only has brickbats for the Federal Government over the decision to axe pilots from the four year skilled migrant worker scheme. And Mr Howell has some dire warnings.

He said the decision to axe the 457 visa scheme for a more streamlined two-tier visa scheme could have severe consequences for regional centres with the closure of airlines routes. 

No sooner does Rex roll out pilots from its Wagga academy then they’re poached by Jetstar  or Virgin. At the top end, Emirates, Qatar and Cathay often poach domestic Australian  pilots. It’s a system bound for failure, if the gaps can’t be filled, Mr Howell said. Rex was just organising a trip to London to source pilots when the 457 scheme was axed.

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