Visa changes could drive migration to Ballarat, agent says

Scrapping the 457 temporary visa could drive more skilled migrants to Ballarat via a pre-existing regional scheme, a Ballarat migration agent said. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the temporary visa program would be replaced with a more stringent scheme on Tuesday in a move he promised would ensure more jobs for Australians.

However Blue Door Migration agent Melinda Toye said most migrants in Ballarat applied for the regional sponsored migration 187 visa.

“There hasn’t been major changes to that (187 visa) which is a good thing for Ballarat,” she said.

Scrapping the 457 visa could drive more skilled migrants to Ballarat under a preexisting regional scheme, a Ballarat migration agent said.

Scrapping the 457 visa could drive more skilled migrants to Ballarat under a preexisting regional scheme, a Ballarat migration agent said.

“It might actually bring more migrants to Ballarat who are looking to that pathway to permanent residency.”

Ms Toye said reform which better protected visa holders was more important than tightening already stringent requirements for applicants and employers. 

The 457 has gained notoriety nationally for worker exploitation, with major franchise chains implicated in visa rorts.

Ms Toye said workers in cafes and restaurants were most vulnerable to exploitation.

Chefs, cooks and hospitality and accommodation managers remain on the occupation list for 457 visas.

The federal government has proposed just over 200 occupations to be axed under the new scheme, including zookeeper and wool classer.

The Courier has previously reported on two Filipino 457 workers who were paid a combined annual wage of $55,000 to operate accommodation at Halls Gap. The couple won a case for unfair dismissal against their employer and a case for unpaid wages is underway.

Ballarat MP Catherine King said the government’s proposed changes were “fiddling around the edges” of reform.

“There needs to be a proper oversight regime, complaints need to be investigated, stolen wages need to be repaid and businesses that break the law need to be punished.”

The new scheme will be made up of a short term two year visa and a medium term four year visa with “more focused occupation lists”. Both visas would require labour market testing. 

Speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday, Nationals Senator Fiona Nash said mining, which has seen several occupations dropped of the 457 list, and horticulture would be unscathed by the changes.