Business fights back over 457 visa changes

CONCERN over sudden changes to rules governing visas for skilled workers appears to be divided along town and country lines.

The alterations to the 457 visas - announced by Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor on Saturday - mean bosses must show there is a "genuine shortage" of skilled labour forcing them to look beyond Australian borders.

Those coming from overseas to fill these roles must now be more proficient in English.

The Federal Government has come under increasing pressure from unions nationally about allowing 457 visas when there suspicion that Australian workers are being overlooked.

In parts of regional Queensland, these 457 visas are used to plug holes either in or caused by the booming mining industry.

Even fast food restaurants are occasionally forced to consider using foreign workers.

Queensland's Chamber of Commerce and Industry is on the warpath, viewing the government's changes as "anti-business".

General manager for advocacy Nick Behrens said these workers were most needed in healthcare, construction, mining, then food services and accommodation.

"What the Federal Government does not understand is that for states like Queensland, we continue to experience skills shortages in many professions across the state."

Regional businesses in regional Queensland are struggling to access a suitable workforce for their needs.

"The reality is, even if you trained the people, the competition means they would be trained and they would go across to the resources industry for the higher dollars."

But the Queensland Farmers' Federation said the changes made little difference to its primary producing members.

A QFF spokesman said the skills shortage was serious in rural areas, but those in agriculture had substantial proof to show it needed the foreign hands.

On Sunday, Minister O'Connor said the changes were to fight those rorting the legislation and discriminating against Australian nationals keen to do the work.


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