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Government to Implement Industry Report on Skilled Migration

The Rudd Government is moving quickly to implement the recommendations made by an External Reference Group (ERG) established to improve Australia’s temporary skilled migration program.

The Rudd Government is moving quickly to implement the recommendations made by an External Reference Group (ERG) established to improve Australia’s temporary skilled migration program.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said today the group of industry experts had made 16 recommendations in its final report.

'We have already begun work to implement 14 of the 16 recommendations designed to make the temporary skilled migration (457 visa) program scheme more effective and responsive to industry needs,' Senator Evans said.

The report covers six broad areas: long term planning; streamlining application and approval processes; eliminating duplication and unnecessary administration; remaining competitive; and branding.

Senator Evans today announced that a key measure will be the establishment in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth of specialised teams or “˜Centres of Excellence’ to facilitate and process 457 visa applications from July.

The ERG said that specialised teams dedicated to regions, industries and projects experiencing critical shortages will allow a more responsive service and reduce processing backlogs.

Senator Evans said he has directed the department to allocate extra resources and work overtime to clear the backlog of 457 visa applications by June 30 as a more immediate measure.

As at 1 April 2008, 39 940 temporary skilled visas have been granted in 2007-08, which on current projections is 17 per cent higher than the previous year when 46 680 such visas were granted.

Another key recommendation is to establish an accreditation system whereby 'low risk' employers with a good track record of compliance with immigration and industrial relations laws can have 457 visa applications fast-tracked by the department.

'We will develop measures so that employers or employer groups that meet certain criteria will be accredited to have their applications expedited,' Senator Evans said.

'The department is currently working on IT system changes to support the identification of low risk employers, who can then have their applications processed by the specialised teams.'

The Government will also promote and encourage the wider use of Labour Agreements for larger projects that are in the national interest and have significant economic benefit for Australia.

'Dedicated teams within the department will work more closely with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to facilitate these agreements,' Senator Evans said.

'The Government will work towards achieving a one-stop shop for major infrastructure projects so they can be processed efficiently while ensuring transparency.'

Other recommendations outlined in the ERG report include:

  • Development of a long-term strategy to respond to aggregate labour market and skill needs and population trends;
  • Expansion of the department’s front-end support through the industry and regional outreach programs to help employers and industry lodge “˜decision ready’ applications;
  • Comprehensive staff training to improve risk-management procedures and increase the efficiency of 457 visa processing;
  • Increasing competition between service providers in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the English language testing service, and
  • An evaluation of the recommendations implemented by Government be undertaken two years following their introduction.

Senator Evans said the Government will consider a further two of the ERG’s recommendations.

The ERG is of the view that the 457 visa is not suitable to meet semi-skilled and unskilled labour demands, except through the use of Labour Agreements for semi-skilled workers.

The group also recommended renaming the Business Long Stay Subclass 457 Visa as the Temporary Skilled Migration (TSM) Visa to improve market recognition.

'I welcome the report by the ERG and thank the members for their work,' Senator Evans said.

'The ERG consulted widely across key industry groups with consideration of the current labour market pressures and the use of the Subclass 457 visa.

'The recommendations made by the ERG are designed to respond to the immediate labour market pressures facing Australian industry while complementing broader labour market skills strategies and maintaining the integrity of the temporary skilled migration program.

'The ERG report stressed the importance of training to alleviate the skills shortages in the medium to long term, while permanent migration is crucial for meeting long term labour market demands.'

Senator Evans said the ERG report recognised the Rudd Government’s establishment of Skills Australia, which includes funding of an additional 450 000 training places over the next four years, with 20 000 of these training places available from this month.

The Rudd Government has also increased the permanent skilled migration program by 6000 places for 2007-08, bringing to 108 500 the total number of visas granted under the skilled migration program this financial year.