The first review of skills list in three years began last week, with calls to remove specific skills from the Consolidated Skills Occupation List (CSOL).
Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney who is the only union representative on the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM) told The Australian that the list did not look at shortages.
“There is no rhyme nor reason for why particular occupations are on the list, and many, such as nurses, teachers, engineers and a number of trades occupations, should be removed,” she said.
MACSM advises the government on visa and policy settings to optimise the contribution of skilled migration to Australia’s productivity and economy. In effect, it determines the occupations on the skills list by advising the government which to add and which to remove.
Opposing Ms Kearney’s view was Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry director Jenny Lambert, who said the CSOL list should not be shortened as it allowed for business and regional differences.
“The list needs to be responsive,” she said.
Ms Lambert said the CSOL review needed to take an evidence-based approach that examined the locations and professions with high uptakes of 457s.
“Just changing the list doesn’t do anything,” she said.
“It’s critically important that MACSM doesn’t look to make CSOL some sort of shortages list.”
Ms Lambert said the mobility of the Australian workforce was definitely an issue that contributed to the need for 457 visas.
Strong ties to family and friends, and the size of Australia, made mobility a “formidable” problem, she said.
“One of the most significant myths is that skilled trades are at risk,” she said.
Ms Lambert said that most of the people granted a 457 visa were professionals.
She said rather than migrants taking jobs from Australians, a well-balanced migration program generated jobs.
“If you start fiddling with the occupations of the CSOL, you will lose … responsiveness to individual businesses and regions.”
The MACSM panel had a major overhaul recently with three union leaders dumped from the panel leaving only the ACTU head to lead the union charge.
The Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox is the panel’s chair. He warned that past discussions on 457 workers were destructive and there is a need to move on:
“We need to shift the debate,” he said. “We had a rabid debate through 2012-13 on the whole issue of skilled migration and we need to shift the agenda a bit to have a holistic view around skilled migration’s role in the overall skills mix, how it fits in with the training agenda and what the needs of business are, both in the short and long term,” he said.
Source: Migration Alliance