Griffith mayor says city still needs 457 visa workers with skills shortage due to low unemployment

Out of work tradies picket against the use of 457 visa workers in 2013.
Out of work tradies picket against the use of 457 visa workers in 2013.

The government’s scrapping of 457 visas has surprised many in the Riverina, with some businesses relying on importing skilled workers.

The Turnbull government’s “Australians first” approach to skilled migration will see the controversial 457 visa program dumped in favour of a new temporary visa specifically designed to recruit “the best and brightest”, with tougher English language tests and labour market requirements.

Griffith mayor John Dal Broi was stunned by the announcement and said it would have a “huge effect” on the city.

“I’m flabbergasted by this decision, it’s completely out of the blue,” Councillor Dal Broi said.

“I know of several companies that have gone overseas to recruit people for all sorts of roles that they just can’t fill.

“They just can’t get people to apply for these jobs in Griffith, they’d love to give the jobs to Australians.”

The western Riverina city’s unemployment rate is about 4 per cent, one of the lowest in the state, which Cr Dal Broi said was “practically full employment”. He estimated there were about 100 457 visa workers in Griffith.

“The people we’re getting from overseas have a different attitude to work, they’re appreciative of the work and they’re good, reliable workers,” Cr Dal Broi said.

“There are already a lot of apprentices being trained but it takes time and these businesses need skilled workers now.”

Workers already on a four-year 457 visa, less than 1 per cent of the national workforce, will be exempt from the new regulations.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the government would work with companies to ensure they met labour market testing requirements, while Riverina MP Michael McCormack reassured businesses they could still access foreign workers.

“The 457 visa has been helpful for the Riverina, particularly the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, where they find it very hard to find people to do the jobs that make it our food bowl,” he said.

“I very much agree with Cr Dal Broi about the difficulties with low unemployment and that’s why there will be the ability for the agricultural sector to access those workers.

“However, welfare can only extend so far and we need to get unemployed Australians back to work – they should be first and foremost if jobs are available for them.”