Coalition opens foreign labour flood gates

By Leith van Onselen

Hot on the heels of the Abbott Government’s decision to relax requirements around 457 ‘temporary’ work visas to make it much easier for Australian businesses to import so-called “skilled” foreign workers, the Government is now also seeking to introduce a “short-term mobility visa”, which would allow employers to hire specialised workers for up to 12 months.

As reported in The Guardian and The SMH today, the new class of visa has been proposed by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), and according to the ACTU would “seek to remove key current safeguards such as labour market testing (LMT), as well as English language and skill requirements from certain visa types”.

The ACTU is rightly scathing of the proposed new visa class, arguing that there were already 1.1 million temporary visa-holders in Australia as of last September – an increase of more than 28,000, or 2.6%, in a year:

“This proposal may align with the wish list of certain employers, but it is not in the interest of Australian or overseas workers”…

[DIBP] had failed to explain “how deregulating work visas will benefit the large number of Australian workers without jobs”, including those unable to secure apprenticeships and university graduates facing a depressed job market.

However, Assistant Immigration and Border Protection Minister, Michaelia Cash, has countered that the skilled migration program was aimed at plugging skill shortages, and strongly disputed union claims that Australian jobs were under threat:

“It is essential in restoring growth in the economy. It is essential in lifting our productivity.”

Perhaps Senator Cash should refer to the Department of Employment’s latest Skill Shortages Statistical Summary, released last week, which revealed that “the availability of skilled workers is greater than it has been since the current series began in 2007, and fewer occupations are in shortage”?

According to the report:

There are generally large fields of applicants vying for skilled jobs and employers fill a high proportion of their vacancies… Almost all employers attract applicants, with just 4 per cent not receiving any interest in their vacancies…

ScreenHunter_5752 Jan. 28 07.33

Put simply, where is the evidence of a pervasive skills shortage that warrants the further relaxation of temporary skilled working visas?

It is entirely the wrong time to for the Abbott Government to be pursuing such a policy, given Australia’s stubbornly high unemployment (particularly youth unemployment), which is likely to worsen as mining investment unwinds, the local car industry closes, and the current housing construction boom-let subsides.

ScreenHunter_5757 Jan. 28 07.50

Given such an economic environment, why on earth should the visa system make it even easier to import labour from offshore rather than training local workers, potentially adding to the pool of under/unemployed and depriving our youth of employment opportunities?

Sure, Australia needs to improve its competitiveness. However, this should be achieved via a process of real exchange rate depreciation, which protects the vulnerable and encourages workforce participation by locals, boosting productivity.

Simply importing labour to keep wages down and to disguise the economic adjustment by maintaining the throttle on population growth (reducing all Australians cut of the economic pie in the process) is short-sighted and dirty policy.

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist


    • Barefaced Abbott and The Great Whine Hockey…….how much damage can they do to Australia and Australians before their positions are taken away?

      How much of the damage they have done to date be rolled back?

  1. As Australians stream out now as fast as immigrants stream in pretty much the sole effect of this policy will be to further reduce the government’s standing in the community.

    If they want to set a record for biggest anti government swing this is the right way.

    • “As Australians stream out now as fast as immigrants stream in…. ”

      NOM is +212,700p.a.. Can you explain what you mean by the above statement?

      • It means even though an absolute truck load of people are leaving, an even bigger truck load is being brought in.

        “At 30 June 2014, 28.1% of Australia’s estimated resident population (ERP) (6.6 million people) was born overseas.”

      • It’s intentional hyperbole meaning NOM is falling along with the LNP’s popularity, due to rising outflows and stable to falling inflows, but the change to outflows is bigger.

        Mr Rudd gave us NOM of 300,000 in 2009. (Edit: Corrected NOM)

        So far Mr Abbott has reduced NOM, most likely despite his own efforts.

      • Meh.

        So far Abbott has attempted to lift restrictions on labour importation only to see NOM fall.

        It’s a thought bubble that serves to piss people off, nothing more, pretty much like all LNP policy at the moment. It also has the potential to give the low population growth movement a slow moving target to focus on, which can’t be a bad thing.

    • What is the qualitative difference between ‘specialised’ and ‘skilled’?

      I understand there have been many bureaucratic residency issues for highly skilled specialist surgeons, researchers etc. being viewed the same as a VET skilled worker?

      NOM (UN definition introduced 2006) does not equal ‘immigrant’, it is merely numbers in and numbers out of those in country 12/16+ months, i.e. visa status and nationality are irrelevant, an awfully broad brush stroke…… you may find that many, if not most, are simply fee paying international students studying diplomas, degrees and masters, Kiwis, 2nd year (mostly European) backpackers and long term tourists…. and of course 457s who are obviously colonising Australia.

      Accordingly the estimated resident population includes NOM which is described elsewhere as turnover of population that works and/or pays for services, with no access to social security, unless they are the lucky small minority who later gain permanent residency.

      Not sure what the socio political differences are in Australia between those for and against this movement of people (which is dwarfed by the more short term figures for <12/16 months), neither think these foreigners should have any rights, and both sides get the boots into these faceless foreigners that no one has apparently met…… let's hope this is not just a negative abstraction or meme to mainatin the status quo…..

      It is why that in the UK there is a bi-partisan approach to removing international students from the NOM as research revealed that British do not view them as 'immigrants' (ex. BNP, UKIP etc.), and according to Lib Dem Vince Cable it leads to 'torrid and emotional debates' in media.

      Be careful what you wish for, many (mono cultural non immigration) nations are so desperate to keep their population numbers up on paper that they resort to including their own citizens who have left to work elsewhere….. meanwhile the actual in country populations are declining, ageing, facing pension time bombs, senior management holding chairs and politicians playing up to these older demographic majorities….. leaving youth with no career or employment options……

      In Australia, that's the point isn't it, maintains the socially conservative status quo for people who think they are progressive? 🙂

  2. This is rampant in IT, and certainly costs Australians jobs in their own country. I’ve got many friends who are 457 so it’s nothing personal they’re great guys & girls *but* I am disgusted the government puts Australia’s interests in employment for its citizens last.

    • Building industry too.
      Brother tells me crate loads of non skilled workers coming in on unionised high rise sites (not sure where the CFMEU is on this)….says the skill level is literally non existent and OHS goes out the window.

    • “Open for Business”.

      Especially TNC “financier” business.

      Profits (ergo, usury payments) first. Australian citizens (a distant) second.

      (And don’t delude yourselves that the “other” side will be any different. The game is rigged.)

    • Earlier in my career when I was trying to break into IT the industry was crying about a lack of people and a need for 457’s. And they got it. So instead of hiring a young Australian with qualifications but no experience they hire someone on a 457 and I end up in another industry.

    • They think they can get away with it and so far they can. See the story in Links on political donations from china ensuring the is no opposition, no matter what the unions say. They just have to give enough money….

    • You have to realize they are their for the sole purpose to do the bidding of their financial backers. There are only five ways to improve productivity:
      1. Increase competition (hence reduce cost for more businesses)
      2. Reduce rent cost
      3. Improve automation
      4. Reduce exchange rate
      5. Reduce labour cost

      1 & 2 are definitely opposed by LNP’s backer.
      3 is too for LNP’s backers, why improve when you can sit there and collect rent.
      4 would greatly benefit industries with heavy union presence.
      Which only leaves us 5.

      You have to realize the LNP is put there to advance as much of their backers interests as possible in the allocated time, not to promote Australian interests.

      Think less suicidal idiot, and more along the lines of suicide bomber. It will make much more sense.

      • This.

        What a nightmare this country is becoming.

        But, it will end in a self harming IED for these idiots.

      • Indeed turning into a nightmare.
        Add to that, most of the people i know on those sort of visas earn good money but don’t spend much locally, most goes back home to support family so that doesn’t help the economy much either

      • I meant “3 is too bothersome…”


        I haven’t met many people in 457s. Maybe they only work for companies owned by overseas parents like Infosys. So maybe you are more likely to run into them if your company engages Infosys. I just haven’t ran into very many because Infosys sucks (even before they started using 457)

        All the Indians I’ve came across the last couple of years are recent PR migrants, with very good English, even very little to neutral accent. But then again, I work with independent contractors, so maybe only the most confident go down that path, and obviously have no sponsors for the 457 visa.

      • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

        The FMG mine I work on has heaps of 457 working for the service company there, esp after the 10k+ pay cuts

        Lots of french accented africans at the moment.

      • Best form of increasing productivity is innovation.

        Not really astonishing that Australians don’t even bother listing it.

        And no, that’s NOT automation.

      • Hobbes: in my last job, the company was looking for “innovation”
        (very hard for some companies to measure)

        I suggest an innovation fund, that paid bounties to the instigators of projects that did things like saved opex, saved capex, improved efficiency (in a measurable fashion) — executives BLANK STARE.

        (Example, I created a reporting system that automated most of my job and made my colleagues’ lives easier, and provision of services to customers way faster — things like that)

    • Amazingly stupid yes but electrol suicide – not just yet. This issue has, sadly, barely raised a ripple and the they like it like that.

      • Give it time.

        WorkChoices was helped on its way to becoming electoral poison by a union advertising campaign. This could still out the same way, if the ACTU and their members organise skillfully enough.

        Of course, for the moment, the unions may feel they don’t need to spend the money…

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      @ Bogan

      Good link brother, lets see how much time the mainstream media devote to this story.

      This sort of stuff is nothing new, as a large construction Plumbing foreman from the 90s to late 2007, I’ve seen first hand the complete takeover of the Stud wall/Gyprocking trade by Chinese companies using illegal labour.
      ( I don’t know what all the yugoslav gyprockers do now).

      Typically 10-30% of their guys will be legally on the books, with rest clearly not. Very young blokes who can’t speak a word of english, are on site for the maximum hours allowed (sometimes 16hrs/day), 6 to 7 days/week and always segregated from all other site workers.
      Most appear to be here on student or tourist visas and I would bet my house that not one of them earns more than $10/hr or pays a cent in tax.

      A serbian gyprocker foreman told me at the Blacktown hospital build in 98-99 that his company was losing jobs to chinese companies, who were quoting jobs at below materials cost!

      The builders and developers love it!, purchasers still pay the full price the market can bear.

      Doesn’t TPP make this kind of activity legal?
      (foreign companies winning contracts with employees receiving foreign wages and conditions)

  3. I had attached this to another post but it probably fits better here

    Kelvin Thompson’s interesting thoughts on the correlation of unsustainably high population growth and the surge in political volatility being experienced across the country

    1000 extra residents every single day is not sustainable. Something’s got to give.

    The major parties (and their Big Australia corporate backers) don’t want to know about it.

    • THE only politician making any sense today. A real gem.

      They say 1200 new arrivals into Melbourne each week, 400 families, average 2 cars per family, 800 extra cars on the road each week………zero infrastructure development to support it. Even more critically, zero effort to improve the PT network. But you can have a whinge about it to your local school chaplain apparently.

      • This is an interesting one. Mr Cai, the apologist, is ex-treasury. I wonder if he is ex-FIRB?

        He claims the “No foreign sales of existing dwellings” changes were only after 2010. That was after Rudd opened the floodgates in 2008.

        Claims of xenophobia and racism! Overworked and understaffed! Sounds like this is coming direct from “asleep at the wheel” Brian Wilson. Just enforce the law you duds. Zero prosecutions commenced in six years. Fix it Kelly. Fix it now. What are you waiting for?

    • Does Thomson even understand what a correlation is? Subjective opinion and personal biases do not cut it in social sciences……

  4. My advice to our youth….


    Ill be telling my kids when they are of age to get the hell out of this joke of a country.

    • Where to? I have one already floating around SE Asia and keep telling him to make the move fulltime when he has his degree finished.

  5. reusachtigeMEMBER

    This is great because it creates more wealth for our corporations and that is a good thing.

    • I have to disagree Reusachtige. When the bottom runs out of capital, the bottom falls out of capitalism. I’m not just talking about here in OZ, but right across the western world. People are so far frustrated with the lack of political will to counter the rentiers. That will not last. Anger will take its place and then action will follow. The veil of civil society is a far thinner thing than most fat cats realise. “The French Aristocrats didn’t see it coming”.
      The only thing that can stop the rot is decent opportunity for people to get ahead and that is becoming less and less available. The rule of law and opportunity go hand in hand but once either is lost, you can kiss your corporate wealth goodbye.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      All the Yanks on Zero hedge are saying the same thing Red (leave now!)

      More respect and honour to those who stay, organise and fight against the wreckers of our way of life, here at Home.

      Running away is for quitters and cowards.

  6. Well what are you going to do, vote Labor in again? I don’t understand why Aussie voters just keep swinging back and forth between the two. Why not give the Greens a go, they couldn’t do any worse.

    • Hi J,
      A valid question, but at this stage, it really is irrelevant if you factor in that all parties of all persuasions are ALL tarnished with the same brush.
      THERE ARE NO VISIONARIES in Australian politics.
      Australians have no VIABLE ALTERNATIVES to choose from…so whether you vote for LNP, ALP, Greens etc….THEY ARE ALL F..K..D!
      All you vote for these days is a checklist of things you like…similar to a smorgasboard of items….not a long-term vision for how we want Australia to be and look like. It is really sad.
      The other thing (and before you anyone plays PC on me or call me racist, im not), is that we do not know what it means to be AUSTRALIAN anymore. We are that diluted in culture that we are more hellbent on cowering to minority groups and satisfying them, than we are on defining ourselves, and what we as a nation represent, and wish to be. We have NO IDENTITY, and as such, shallow allegiance to not only Australia, but to EACH OTHER. As an example, look at how we treat our YOUTH, and have destined them to a lower standard of living than ours.
      My recommendation (never gonna happen):
      Noone vote.
      We need a new way.

    • “Why not give the Greens a go, they couldn’t do any worse.”

      I can’t believe we haven’t got the stock standard hysterical generalisations about the Green’s policies yet. Slack..

      That being said, while I’m a Green’s voter, I’m not 100% sure they can’t do worse. You should never underestimate the ability of any political party to fine new and creative ways to balls things up.

      • “You should never underestimate the ability of any political party to find new and creative ways to balls things up.”

        I’m learning this now. But it’s just insane that voters keep switching between the two parties.

  7. The only people that will be able to afford to live in Australia will be cashed up imports.
    The locals wont have jobs that pay enough to support any of the previous-abused perks of past generations eg.housing, electricity, gas, food, you name it. That is why im planning now for the exit.


    Let the olders befriend the new Australia… foreign imports that will wipe your bum for 2$ and communicate to you according to their own cultural values…get used to it. Feel at home with a different level of care since your children have fled the homeland due to a gutful of ignorance.

    Young Aussies – seek greener pastures abroad where you are valued since you are clearly NOT here.

      • You are right….it is being done in stealth…….those in the know what is going on…..and many that are powerless (eg.the youth, and average joes) do as well………and the ones that can stop the onslaught choose NOT TO…this is the INACTION which is INTERGENERATIONAL THEFT.

  8. This will surely help with increasing rental demand (with temps/457s sharing 2br unit between 8-10 people), so more people can NG their investment properties in the hope of a capital gain.

    • Having 8-9 people sharing a property doesn’t exactly create enough demand for all the new units about to come up (or existing already). I thought the argument was the owners would rather keep them pristine and not rent them out?

  9. Ok i’ve had enough.

    What do you reckon we pay the $500 to register a party and take these self interested muppets to the cleaners at the next election.

    Who’s with me?

    • If you think the infighting in Labor and the Coalition is bad, imagine a party made up of Macrobusiness members! 😉

      Although at least there would most likely be a decent and coherent housing policy!

      • If you think the infighting in Labor and the Coalition is bad, imagine a party made up of Macrobusiness members!


        Actually, thinking about it, we would do better than the present alternatives, providing that we could avoid donations that leave us beholding to others (ie. If only we could abolish all political donations). But, since that will not likely happen in the short term, we are stuck with the status quo.

      • Or are we?

        Here’s a thought bubble!

        Malcolm Turnbull seems to be far more suited to leadership than the incumbent, but why would he want to lead the “Loon Pond” of the far right cabal?
        He has been keeping his head low. Maybe it is time for Malcolm to split the LNP and start his own party of liberal (small l) moderates and leave the far right loons to wither on the vine.
        Don’t know if he would ever consider it himself (DLP/Democrats ended in tears), but it would certainly rattle a few cages!

  10. I am seriously contemplating this myself. Our youth and future Aussies need advocates and people in their corner. I cant think of one in current politics that truly is. If Australia’s trajectory keeps on this course much longer, I will raise my efforts in advocating for youth and jobloe aussies like myself, and definitely all eyes and ears HFW :>)

  11. Why is productivity only a matter of lower wages and anything done by the employer himself? Why isn’t productivity considered as thechnology advance and innovation, not just wages cuts? Everything today is turned upside down. Lowering wages means higher exploitation, not higher productivity. Isn’t our society against exploitation? Or we are alining with China and other developping countries where the work force is exploited and maltreated? Productivity comes from real economy innovation, not nominal cutting of wages to get higher profits.

  12. You could always check us out:

    Established in 2010, Sustainable Population Party is a registered political party, contesting federal elections and by-elections.
    We are a group of committed people from backgrounds in business, science, the environment, health, academia, demography, politics and many other ordinary citizens, from World War 2 Diggers to migrants from every inhabited continent on Earth.

    Sustainable Population Party is #RedefiningGrowth to secure a prosperous economy, healthy environment and better quality of life for all Australians.

    Real growth means better, not bigger.

    Prosperous Economy | How to achieve real growth?
    Invest in better education and skills training to improve job security and workforce participation, whilst fostering innovation.
    Encourage a diverse range of productive industries, to increase export income and employment.
    Maintain a natural economic advantage via careful management of our food, water, energy and mineral resources.

    Healthy Environment | How to achieve real growth?
    Protect animal habitats and biodiversity including native bushland and marine areas.
    Promote greater community participation in the conservation of recreational areas.
    Support clean energy technologies and lower greenhouse emissions.
    Better Quality of Life | How to achieve real growth?
    Improve access to quality health care and emergency services.
    Enable more affordable, well-planned and desirable housing.
    Relieve congestion on our public transport and roads, to increase family and leisure time.

    Australia can be better, without being bigger. We need real growth, not population growth.

    As part of our #RedefiningGrowth plan, we also reject the Liberal / National / Labor / Greens agenda to double Australia’s population to around 40 million by 2050. We support a target of around 26 million.

    To secure a prosperous economy, healthy environment and better quality of life for all Australians: