Department of Immigration Roundtable Discussion (May 2017)

BioMelbourne Network CEO, Dr Krystal Evans attended a technology industries roundtable discussion with the Department of Immigration and the Department of Industry regarding skilled migration and the decision to abolish the 457 visa program. The medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector was well represented in these discussions, with a number of industry bodies present, including representatives from AusBiotech, Chemistry Australia, MTPConnect and Medicines Australia as well as BioMelbourne Network members, such as CSL.

The overall sentiment from stakeholders was that the 457 visa changes undermine Australia’s ambition to grow globally competitive innovation-intensive companies – if we cannot access people who have the skills and experience to succeed in global markets it will be hard to grow the industries of the future needed to transition Australia’s economy. It was also noted that the 457 visa changes are inconsistent with the ambitions in other areas of Government policy – such as the vision for the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Industry Growth Centres and the advanced manufacturing initiatives. All of these will require Australia to be able to access international talent, to fully participate in the global economy.

Fact sheets on the new visa changes can be found on the Dept of Immigration and Border Protection website on the abolition of 457 visas and the reforms to the programme.

One key point that I wanted to communicate to members was that the occupation lists for the new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visas will be further reviewed (again) on 1st July 2017 – so there is a short window of time to voice concerns and give feedback to the Department to help identify the list changes that need to be made (or reversed) in order to support the growth of businesses in our sector.

It also means that anyone who was in the process of applying for a 457 should hold tight – because there will be changes to the lists –and we hope that this may result in some of the occupations vital to the growth of our sector being put back on the list.

We urge members concerned by the changes to supply feedback to the Department, particularly regarding the new Short Term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL) – to supply an evidence-based business case for the occupations that they think should be back on the list, or those occupations which have been placed on the Short Term list but should be moved to the Medium to Long Term List (for example: CEO/General Manager)

A general framework for your feedback:

Which occupation/s are you concerned about?
Why is it/are they central to your business?
What problems are you having accessing these skills in Australia? What indicates to you that there is a skills shortage?
What actions, if any, have you taken to build the Australian workforce, in terms of skills and training within your organisation?

Areas of concern ongoing from BioMelbourne Network’s perspective include:

• Removal of the pathway to permanent residency for short term visa holders (STSOL) who will only be eligible for 2 x 2 years visa – which makes Australia much less attractive to people who are in high demand globally.
• The frequency of list reviews, every six months, creating a lack of stability that affects the ability to plan long term human resource needs.
• Eligibility criteria that includes mandatory labour market testing – creating additional burden especially for start-ups and growth stage SMEs
• Eligibility criteria of “at least 2 years work experience” – does this count post-graduate work, for example? Can you employ masters/PhD?
• New foreign worker fees that require employers using the new visa program to make a levy contribution to the Skilling Australians Fund.

The Department also provided more details around the changes and if you, or your HR team, are interested please reach out. Many of the details of the program are still open to consultation – creating a genuine opportunity to contribute to the shape of the program going forward – and so now is a good time to raise any issues you can forsee for your business regarding skilled migration.


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