Proposed amendments by the
Australian Labor Party to Australia’s skilled worker migration scheme ignore
the needs of regional Australia and risk damaging the vital role that 457
visa-holders play in struggling rural economies, according to peak grower body

Labor’s compromise plan for passage of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement
includes amending Australian migration law to raise the minimum wage threshold
for the 457 visa to $57,000 and end a two-year freeze on the threshold.

“After an independent review of the 457 program recommended that the skilled
migration income threshold should be frozen for two years, it’s extremely
concerning that Labor is trying to rush through this ‘one size fits all’ policy
with little regard to the skills shortages being experienced in rural
Australia,” said AUSVEG Deputy CEO Andrew White.

AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing more than 9,000
Australian vegetable and potato growers.

AUSVEG believes that increasing the Temporary Skilled Migration Income
Threshold (TSMIT) will damage rural industries by pricing the visa program
above the range of many skilled jobs in regional Australia.

“Arguments that raising the threshold are about ensuring skilled migrants have
enough income to support themselves are completely misleading,” said Mr White.

“Workers on a 457 visa already have to be paid the market salary rate for their
position, and if that rate is below the income threshold, the position is
ineligible for the 457 visa program.”

“There are jobs under the current system which would become ineligible if these
proposals were implemented, including key roles for Australian growers like
horticultural technicians and farm supervisors. Raising the wage floor is only
going to ensure that these vital regional jobs, which would otherwise be
performed by skilled workers, go empty.”

As well as recommending a freeze on the TSMIT, the Robust New Foundations independent review
into the 457 visa system also found that there may be merit in having a
separate, lower TSMIT for positions in regional areas, where market salary
rates for many skilled jobs are below the current level of $53,900.

“Imposing an across-the-board increase in the income threshold is a
one-size-fits-all strategy that fails to acknowledge the realities of running a
business in regional Australia,” said Mr White.

“Any changes to the 457 program must take into account the differences in the
job markets in regional and metropolitan Australia, including the average
incomes across different industries, instead of simply painting them all with a
broad brush policy.”

“We’d like to see any future discussion about changes to the program to take a
more evidence-based approach and acknowledge the vital role that the 457
program plays in Australian agriculture.”

Andrew White, AUSVEG Deputy CEO

Phone: (03) 9882 0277, Mobile: 0409 989 575, Email: