Subject: 457 visas.
HOST: Obviously over the last 24 hours the big story federally was the announcement by Malcolm Turnbull that the 457 visa system as we know it is dead in the water. Is Malcolm Turnbull, to you first Chris Pyne, is he trying to sort of tap into his inner Donald Trump with this announcement?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, not at all. We’ve been thinking about the need to reform 457 visa system for some time. We got John Azarius to do a review for us and he made significant recommendations which we have adopted. Basically under Labor the 457 visas got quite out of hand and ironically under Bill Shorten he issued more 457 visas than anybody else in the history of the country and we’ve decided that we need to tighten that up, tighten it up significantly so that the temporary visas for skills shortages are just that; they are not cheap or foreign labour being brought in to replace Australians. They will be visas for temporary skill shortages as they were originally intended.
HOST: Has Labor had a chance to go through the detail of this yet Albo, and are you confident that specifically in the areas of construction and also manufacturing that it’s going to satisfy some of the concerns that Labor raised, particularly in the context of things like the China Free Trade Agreement?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well we have been raising concerns including at the time of the China Free Trade Agreement that it would mean a free-for-all and the replacement of Australian workers with foreign workers. We have said there are two key tests here. One is the element of labour market testing that was opposed of course when we introduced it when we were in government by the then Abbott-led Coalition. That is critical, to get out there and have independent testing of whether Australians are available for particular jobs before foreign workers are allowed to take up those positions. That’s the first thing. The second thing is they have got to get fair dinkum in the Budget about education and training. We have lost so many apprentices since the change of government and there is a need to make sure that we provide young Australians and Australians being reskilled with the skills that they need so that they can fill these jobs.
HOST: Chris Pyne, KPMG has been critical of the move. They say that the number of 457 visas has been declining naturally and there is no evidence the current system wasn’t working properly. Do you accept that criticism?
PYNE: Well different people will have different opinions. The truth is that we asked John Azarius to do a report. He doesn’t work for KPMG and that report indicated that we could improve the system. We believe that 457 visas have been over-used and there weren’t enough controls around them in the previous government and we believe the temporary skill shortage visa will be fit for purpose and I think the public will support that. Obviously we think that businesses should be able to bring workers into Australia and South Australia as needed when they can’t find those workers here in Australia. But under the 457 visas Bill Shorten was issuing visas for people who were flipping burgers in Sydney. Now I am sure we can find Australians to do those jobs. I’m sure we can find Australians to do many of the highly skilled jobs that need to be filled as well and as part of our defence industry plan that is one of the reason we advanced the Naval Ship Building college here in Adelaide to ensure we have the 5000 workers needed at Osborne when we get the ship building under way, which we are doing right now.
HOST: Was a motivating factor this denying the de-facto migration whereby the 457 was too open-ended? Was this as much about putting a limit by way of the two and four-year limit as it was about sort of refining those entry level opportunities for people?
PYNE: Well the 457 visas were not supposed to be a pathway to permanent migration and because they were four years they became a pathway to permanent migration. So we are having a four-year and a two-year visa. The two-year visa will be open to more skills and skills shortages and the four-year visa will be for less in terms of the categories of different skills that will be able to be brought into the country and we think that is appropriate. And say for example the highly skilled health workers, which we do need, they’ll probably be applying under the four-year medium-term visa, rather than the two-year visa. So this is an important change. I think it will be welcomed by the public and it shows that the Government is just getting on with the job of governing which is what the people want us to do.
HOST: Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne, the real ones that is, we thank you both for joining us this morning for Two Tribes.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.