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Builders back skilled migration, apprenticeship reforms

11 September, 2014

The construction industry has welcomed the Minister for Immigration's support for a more efficient and flexible 457 visa skilled migration program based on the report of the Independent Review Panel's Report into the 457 program released by Senator Michaelia Cash, Assistant Minister for Immigration.

"The Report's findings and recommendations will position the Government to achieve a more balanced 457 program to help unlock investment in the construction industry, boost productivity and employ more Australians," Wilhelm Harnisch CEO of Master Builders Australia said.

"Importantly, the independent report busts the myth pushed by unions that is systematic rorting of the 457 visa program by employers," he said.

Local jobs lost?

"Claims by unions that a more flexible 457 visa program will lead to local jobs losses have no basis in fact. There is no incentive for a business in the construction industry to employ a foreign worker ahead a readily available skilled local tradesperson. In fact quite the contrary," Harnisch said.

"Contrary to the denigration by unions of foreign workers it is simply a union myth that foreign workers are taking Australian jobs," he said.

"The skilled migration program is not about bringing in foreign labour at the expense of local workers. By allowing the building industry to better respond to current and forecast future demand where no appropriately skilled local labour is not available, skilled migration visas such as 457s create jobs that will be filled by young Australians," Harnisch said.

Greater flexibility on language requirements

"Master Builders welcomes the report's other key recommendations, particularly for greater flexibility around English language requirements, reforms to allow responsive and demand driven skilled migration where the standard 457 program is not suitable and appropriate relaxing of regulatory requirements where a sponsor has a proven track record of compliance," he said.

"The Report's recognition that the Government should continue to work closely with business through a Ministerial Advisory Council to ensure the skilled migration model remains relevant and responsive to industry is also welcome," Harnisch said.

"The construction industry has a history of booms and busts and implementing the Report's recommendations for a more flexible and efficient skilled migration program will allow the industry to better manage its cyclical labour needs," he said.

Unemployed tradies

"However, Master Builders first priority is getting unemployed tradies back to work and training more apprentices to meet the industry's needs for a skilled workforce. Accessing foreign skilled tradespeople only occurs when there is no viable alternative," Wilhelm Harnisch said.

"To this end Master Builders has called on the Government to invest heavily in skills-based training and restore flexibility to the 457 visa program relieving it of the suffocating over-regulation introduced by the previous Government," he said.

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