457 visa changes sell-out hospitality workers

ScreenHunter_1967 Apr. 07 08.55

By Leith van Onselen

I noted last month how the Abbott Government had announced a review of 457 visas for ­temporary foreign skilled workers, which looked as if it would reopen a visa loophole that would allow employers to hire an unlimited number of foreign workers under a temporary working visa, potentially opening the system to widespread rorting.

I also argued that the efficacy of relaxing 457 visa requirements was questionable, given: 1) the latest Department of Employment’s labour shortages report claimed that “skill shortages continued to abate” and employers in 2013 “generally filled their vacancies with ease and had large fields of applicants from whom to choose”; and 2) unemployment is at the highest level in 10 years and likely to deteriorate further, whereas the labour force participation rate is falling (suggesting hidden employment), and there is substantial under-employment.

Today, The Australian has reported that 457 visas for the hospitality industry are set to be relaxed to fast-track thousands more foreign chefs, cooks, waiters and bar staff:

The department is evaluating an industry request to fast-track thousands more foreign chefs and cooks on temporary work visas.

Separately, the department is considering lowering the existing requirement for 457 visa workers to have “functional ­English’’, as part of a government-ordered inquiry into the temporary work scheme.

Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive John Hart yesterday revealed the hospitality industry wants the agreement to extend 457 visas to cover waiters and bar staff, as well as skilled chefs and managers.

The industry also wants to waive English language requirements and axe the $53,900 minimum salary…

The hospitality industry is a key pathway to employment for unskilled and unemployed Australians, as well as university students seeking part-time work. Relaxing 457 visa requirements for hospitality could remove this pathway, while at the same time undermining local workers’ pay and conditions. It is a retrograde step that risks creating an underclass of working poor and long-term unemployed, while at the same time keeping the throttle on population growth and capital’s share of profits.

[email protected]



  1. There should never be 457 visas for unskilled or low skilled labour. Not to mention the hospitality industry contributes very little to Australia terms of trade, and if we employ a lot of cheap migrants sending their money back home it could turn negative.

  2. skill shortage in cooking spaghetti and burger? I don’t thinks so.

    Australia needs unskilled workers because Australian wealthy landlords don’t want to waste their precious investor time on unskilled jobs

    • Having good knowledge of the tourism and hospitality industry, most under estimate the depth and breadth of the industry, throughout all Australia, not just cities and includes aged care facilities/hospitals etc..

      The workforce for chefs, cooks and kitchen hands alone accounts for an estimated 300K, not including pastry cooks, food preparers, baristas, bar people, wait staff etc.., and one common feature (at the best of times), high turnover (unfriendly hours, advancing to management, changing occupations and baby boomers exiting the industry). The industry is expect to increase significantly, http://joboutlook.gov.au

      Further, as opposed to a generation ago, even those with some financial issues think nothing of going out for breakfast, lunch or dinner, often on the tick, because it has become part of our lifestyle.

      In cities local and international students especially work in hospitality, but since cookery taken off Skilled Occupation List, international students are much less apparent in skilled areas. Further, international hospitality interns can work, but almost all is in regional areas e.g. resorts and farms unable to attract locals, plus now it’s the Working Holiday Visa makers who’ve become more significant.

      Lygon Street has changed from INdian &/or sub continent students to Italian Working Holiday Visa makers, good for an authentic experience as many do not speak English well……

      Headline stats are all well and good but they don’t account for qualitative differences in candidates e.g. attitudes, willingness and ability to work in services.

      While on one hand we may complain that foreigners are taking our jobs, others complain as to why Australians should study at university to become a barista (like Europe), and who’d open a hospitality business (on call etc.)

      Personally, early 1980s in Fitzroy Melbourne I would have loved to have seen lots of foreign competition for jobs, if the industry in Fitzroy was the size it is today, 50X bigger?

  3. But hey, at least we stopped the boats.

    We prefer the unwashed masses to arrive economy class.

    • migtronixMEMBER

      Absolutely Joneses. Come think of it we may need 457s to get some detainee guards up in here o_0

      It’s all about WE determining the circumstances *puts head in noose”

  4. The Patrician

    The population/credit ponzi writ large.
    Flood the country with imported low skilled labour => drive up unemployment => use UE rate to justify sustained emergency level IR => rinse and repeat. The faster the better. Infrastucture will look after itself.
    Big Australia. Your Future.

  5. Hmm,

    I’m in 2 minds.

    Agree our jobs should be filled by our own BUT the lovely Irish kids at one local pub and the French at another are so nice and pleasant and charming, compared to…..well you know where I’m going.

    • Except they’ll be on holiday visas probably as opposed to 457 visa which is not and should not be for your average “holiday” or “student” type job. We’ve plenty of young people here and arriving here temporarily to fill those roles.

      • Fair call.
        I do know ( in one case ) the manager is French and hired on 457.
        But , this is Perth and menial jobs have ( or had ) no applicants as nobody works for peanuts!! 🙂

    • That’s true Pelych, but what about our brightest and best Uni students, up to their eyeballs in HECS and working an almost full time job (usually in hospitality) to the detriment of their studies?
      And they’re coughing up in a Uni system whose quality has been badly degraded due to the sell out in the Ponzi scheme gaming full fee paying foreign students.

      Geez, we really are good at fucking up everything. Australians – world champs in the cock up race.

      • We certainly are.

        I have a friend whose daughter is studying in Auckland – 3 year degree – Same qualification at UWA requires 5 years and they are no more qualified to do the work. The rest of the time ( and HECS ) is ‘fluff’ unrelated to the profession.

  6. Look to England to see how this will turn out.

    Intersting that other countries are offering visas for skilled migrants and Aust is doing the opposite.

  7. We need to rethink our concept of a menial job, or an unskilled person.
    Something like cleaning a house/office, driving a taxi or cooking for a crowd is difficult and requires skill.

    One menial job I can think of is sitting on one’s bum behind a CEO desk and collecting bonuses while the company deteriorates. Would it be possible to replace these worthless bums with skilled cleaners, cooks or drivers who know the value of a dollar and would probably run the company in a more skilled fashion?

    • migtronixMEMBER

      Iol second that Claw! Talk about bulls+it jobs! The morons can’t even remember what they did! (see sinodinos)

    • Indeed. People that think cleaning is unskilled work should try cleaning windows and mirrors to a high standard in a very small amount of time. It’s not as easy as it looks. The unjust part is for all that chemical exposure and wear and tear on your body, you generally don’t get the same rights and conditions as other low paid workers. Sham contracting is the norm, so you’ll be lucky to get the minimum wage, let alone super or other entitlements. If you want to see the future that many free market extremists have for Australia, just look at the cleaning industry.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        Yup I’ve done commercial cleaning, 5 months worth many years ago. It is a skill, one I now ply at home, but the chems always gave me a nasty headache.

  8. USA – here we come.

    We don’t need no stinkin’ Mexicans.

    The wealth GAP, which has been well documented will ramp up – crash not withstanding.

    I read (at ZeroHedge I think), that food stamps in the USA are required to keep the masses at bay.

    • migtronixMEMBER

      to keep the masses at bay

      Correction! To keep Walmart employees fed — it is in fact corporate welfare to suppress wages…

      • I stand corrected.

        Now I think of it, I did see a doco on that very point.

        There’s no question where Australia is headed.

        It takes such a long time that no one notices it. We have precedent around the world.

  9. Of course, these visas were never intended for the mass sourcing of low or semi-skilled labour. But like everything the pollies get their hands on, you give them an inch and they take a mile. This move is frightening and bodes poorly for the future of those in this country who are already poor, low-skilled, or mildly disabled.

    Counterintuitively it may also cause a deterioration in the dependency ratio and will feed the population ponzi. The 457 visa system is already being exploited mercilessly by some. I know of one facility involved in aged health which employs staff from overseas on temp working visas, facilitates and supports their application for permanent residency (not sure if this is via claiming exceptional circumstances or the promise of employment for a minimum of 2 years), after which presumably through an informal agreement, the workers are given the flick (too expensive now as they have to be paid proper wages), and replaced with more temp working visa staff. Rinse and repeat.

    While I don’t know all the details, and unsurprisingly those involved play their cards close to their chests, it keeps staff costs down for the business, and the low skilled worker secures a fairly hassle free ticket into the country. Also unsurprisingly, some of these workers have no interest in wiping the arses of aging Aussies, and the attitude and practices they bring to the job would make your blood curdle.

    This type of thing is a fairly open secret if you mix in those circles. Oh, and the dependency/population thing? The most recent individual I am aware of was elated at having secured permanent residency and now being able to bring 13 family members, mostly older with associated health issues and low-skilled to join them here. Most of these probably quite nice human beings will nevertheless wind up being reliant on the welfare and public medicine system.

    Apologies for the lengthy diatribe, and it will not be news to some here. This is happening, it is likely to get worse, and our leaders don’t live near it, don’t want to know about it, and are facilitating it.

    • Bingo!

      And it’s designed to crush the union movement (though clearly some of the Unions deserve to be beheaded and their leadership replaced).

      We are certainly setting our kids up for a shitful life

    • Many immigrants that come to our shore and obtain PR never had it better, especially when they come from a country that provides no health support at all and it’s up to the families. This is a huge draw card for them, it releases the family from the need to provide financial support for medical issues.

      But it’s not only health, it is the generous social security system too, benefits that don’t even exist in the country they are immigrating from.

    • The aged care racket as you’ve described it doesn’t work.

      In order to employ staff from overseas on 457 visas (the only temporary visa class which has a route to employer-sponsored permanent residency), the agency must pay a minimum of $53,900pa, which is well over award for the aged care sector. (if the changes currently being spruiked by the hospitality industry were made, this would not be the case, which is why they are a terrible idea).

      Sponsorship for permanent residency requires the employee to have worked for that employer on a 457 visa for at least two years, with at least $53,900pa being paid and documented. The employer must agree to offer them work for at least another two years at the same rate as when they were employed on the 457.

      Presumably those employees who bugger off once they’ve got permanent residency do so because they are then eligible to take any job in any sector, rather than being forced to keep working in aged care.

      The family member stuff is wrong as well. You can bring your only spouse and your kids on a family visa. You can apply to bring your parents if at least half their kids including yourself live in Australia (ie if you have one brother in India, you can bring your parents, but if you have two brothers in India, you can’t).

      You can bring a brother/sister only if you can demonstrate that they have no close relatives at home, and those are the only family members for whom you can apply for “remaining relative” visas – so bringing over 13 family members is completely impossible.

      DIBP make the visa conditions extremely clear on their website – it’s worth actually reading it rather than relying on friend-of-friend Chinese whispers https://www.immi.gov.au/Visas/Pages/115.aspx

      • As I’ve said, I don’t know all the details, but the source the information comes from is honest, reliable, and has no axe to grind. I am aware of the documentation you have linked to, and I figured there would be someone come out and quote apparent contradictions.

        While the practice may or may not be widespread, it is happening at some level. Do you seriously believe there is no possibility of working the system? Please let me know when you have found an area of govt policy that doesn’t have its loopholes.

        I appreciate these stories are always susceptible to Chinese whispers, but if you can assure me it is not happening rather than shooting the messenger, I am not too proud to eat my humble pie.

        In the meantime I have two words for you: Chodley Wontok.

      • @johnb78 & @Slambo

        some 12 years ago as an international student I had a chat with a shop owner on Pitt St. I was told people who wanted employer’s sponsored visa had to pay 20 grand to the employer upfront. I can’t remember the details now but I’m more inclined to believe it was $20,000 per year rather than for the whole 2 year employment. (60%vs40%). Thus a significant portion of the employee’s income was sponsored by the employee himself/herself.

  10. Believe it or not I try to avoid being a frequent ranter on politics but, there is simply no real need for the huge 457 loophole that is being created.

    The Libs are destroying employment for locals at a time when they ought be promoting, encouraging or even forcing it by doing away with the dole for youth but instead providing paid work to develop skills and good habits.

    MB often worries about the first home buyers, but a demographic of perpetually unemployed, beginning in youth is even worse.

    • “MB often worries about the first home buyers, but a demographic of perpetually unemployed, beginning in youth is even worse.”

      It’s all part of the same issue to me: Boomers screwing over their children.

    • migtronixMEMBER

      I would welcome 457s for Politicians! We desperately need skills in that area

    • As is turns out the actually socialist party (TheTrotskyist, Socialist Equality Party) might save us from a lot of things but foreign workers is not one of them. Their immigration policy is open door.

    • Fairfax seems to be running more and more articles of late about racism, fits in well their agenda of silencing critics of 457 schemes and Big Australia.

    • they tuk er jerbs

      That was a wonderful cartoon wasn’t it? There is so much we can learn from cartoons.
      Me I watch the smurfs and am currently studying magic.

      • It’s an easy way for self declared intelligenza to feel smart and sophisticated by parroting it. Maybe I’m just a white trash loser but the irony is they are tukin er jerbs. Or at least severely downgrading our quality of life. Never mind Clive will save us.

  11. Mining BoganMEMBER

    20% youth unemployment in Nth Queensland yet foreign owned resorts are getting the OK to staff with 457s.

    Yeah, we’re heading the right way.

    • Exactly my thoughts, MB. Youth unemployment is already insane, in addition to pricing them out of their first home are we also going to price them out of their first job?

      I really hope the govt finds some sense on this insane proposal.

    • Is it just me or are the foreign service staff so much more courteous.

      I even sense that when travelling to Asia.

      • I have found that too, I think it has a lot to do though with their hierarchical society though.

      • Yes. Although I think whitey is catching on having seen the writing on the wall. During the early to mid 00s geny were often disgusting. A part of me doesn’t blame them but having a clue about politics is usually how one fights evil not being a bitch to random strangers.

  12. Is Australia repeating a historical event, when the Angles, Jutes and Saxons started mass migrating to Britain in the 5th century?

  13. Wow.

    Was out to “breakfast” recently – $9 for a bowl of porridge, $7 for a piece of toast.

    Two eggs were $9 and then add whatever, at $4 a pop.

    Toast and bacon – came out at $17.

    Coffee $4

    So for a coffee and bacon and eggs its over $20.

    Four of us ? With a Juice.


    Australia has simply lost its fucking marbles.

      • Country town.

        Low wages – low rent.

        These people are on absolute minimum wage and charging the same price as though it were the centre of Melbourne at the new Fat Duck.

    • Hence why my wife and I rarely eat out for breakfast. Same breakfast in Vietnam would probably cost you about $2.50, if not less.

      My wife loves drinking ice chocolates but it costs at least $5.50 for just a cup of milk with a squirt of chocolate when we are at a cafe.

      • Yup.

        This is the issue.

        People feel it is rent / wages – but never do they even consider the fact that people are simply asking way, way too much or expecting massive returns on their half baked cafe.

    • Never went out for breakfast when I was a kid. Seems a bit precious and might be a part of the problem?

    • So you’d have the people serving you the eggs and coffee paid even less, to live in dire conditions?

      How about how much rent the coffee shop owner is giving Frank Lowy?

      I tell you where Australia has lost it’s Marbles, a guy gets a loan of negative interest rates, puts it in an item of shelter, ups the rent of the tenant… who very well may serve you eggs and coffee…. flips it 2 years later and pockets $50,000.

      Does no real work, incurs no real risk considering our policy settings, endears no enterprise, and makes more in that 2 years than what the coffee servant takes home after tax in the same time frame.

      Yet blame the servant because you want cheaper eggs and coffee.

      It’s called more than losing your marbles, its called a moral disgrace.

      • Actually you are way of the mark.

        This was in a small country town, and I see it all over the country.

        I started off in hospitality and know more than most the harsh conditions – so spare me the lecture.

        I also know well the cost of wholesale and commercial products at cafes, wages and rent – so I KNOW these places are running at ridiculous profits.

        There is no doubt that there are many who struggle in major shopping centres – you have no sympathy – however this is NOT about covering wages.

        Prices have been doubling on coffee every 5 years, similar with a basic sandwich – there is simply no way you can say the same for rent or wages. Doubling ?

        The same issue which is driving up prices and driving the demand for 457 is greed – people simply feel entitled to earn a $100k income from running a cafe.

        I know plenty of people who have gone into these businesses because they think it will be far more profitable than their $140k a year desk job then bitch and whinge about staff wanting a coffee break after 4 hours on their feet, or not being able to get the best staff available and only pay award wages.

        Sorry to present a counter argument to everything about housing is evil, but, you are wrong here.

      • So where high rents are a problem, such as most of the country, you point to an anecdote which is an exception, not the norm.

        The anecdote points to high margins being a problem, in a thread about 457 visas, which is about the price of labour :/

        The problem in this country town then is competition, and not wages which this thread is related to, as well as barriers to entry. It points to why regional Australia and national party voters should have no sympathy. Many of their problems are self imposed.

  14. I told ya the Abbot Government would take the bait!!!

    This was a trap left by the exiting Gillard Government to ensure Abbot becomes ensnared in very public union disputes.

    Across the floor you can see this Governments weakness, ideology comes first, figures be damned.

    When unemployment starts billowing, this will become front page news.

    No one will remember that this sub-citizen visa system grew out of the Labour Government as well.

    • No, I actually think it is part of the far right wings attack on Labor to undermine union and workers rights, to benefit corporations with new work choices and to diminish and weaken any opposition.

      But to blame Labor for Abbott selling out hospitality workers is some real funky double think.

      • I’m not blaming Labor, I’m blaming Abbott for being so stupid and not seeing the trap planted here.

        The business community expected these changes as soon as Abbott got into power.

        E.g. Tenders to Indian Outsourcers were delayed until after the election – no sooner than as Abbott was sworn in, the tenders were awarded.

        Abbot needs to put his soap on a rope.

    • Except its not a trap left for Abbott – its not Labor – its entirely Abbotts plan with nothing to do with Labor.

  15. Not enough evidence here to make judgement. People complain about high cost of restaurant meals etc so I understand the industry’s desire to contain costs. The industry has had little success securing abolition of penalty rates and it’s a tough competitive business.

    Maybe this is the future direction, ceasing of the minimum wage although I doubt it will get off the ground just yet. And maybe it shouldn’t?


    Anyway I welcome the arrival of more culinary authenticity, particularly Thai and Indian.

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      The biggest cost is rent. Landlords currently knows your profit margin down to a cent. If you’re doing well, they’ll just increase the rent until you go broke.

      As to authenticity for Thai and Indian, they will do very badly since most Australian cannot eat that kind of spiciness, and the fresh herbs they use is not available in Australia. The ‘unlimited 457 visa’ is a backdoor for unlimited immigration.

      Some of the best food I have ever eaten is from Sinagpore’s Hawker’s market. The market is owned and operated by the government, and each stall pays very low rent ($192-$320 a week), and a meal cost around $3-$5 AUD. It also taste so much better than what we have in Australia due to competition and the very low barrier of entry. Rent is not the only issue though. When the Sydney council introduced ‘food trucks’ to provide more food options in the city, the setup cost range from 78K to 150K.


      The penalty rate is really marginal in context.

  16. Crunch labour, preserve capital. What else did you expect from these guys ? They will sell us all down the river to achieve this goal.

    • migtronixMEMBER

      I’m beginning to agree with Schadenfreude — without open source contracts these people will fear nothing. Lead is mightier than the pen…

    • We’ve been progressively sold out at an ever increasing and alarming rate since the 80s. Now it’s reaching terminal velocity.

  17. fitzroyMEMBER

    Poor fellows our children, youth unemployment in North Adelaide at 42% last time I looked. My son’s friends, good workers are having difficulty getting employment. Receptionist position in local government with 200 applications………