The reaction of Griffith employers, farmers, politicians and regional doctor groups to the scrapping of skilled migrant 457 visas has ranged from hostile to indifference.
Tom Gallagher, CEO of A&G Engineering, a family owned manufacturing business that employs 100 people in Griffith, including nine on 457 visas, was scathing in his assessment.
He called the decision “a flashy short-term vote ploy to win over conservative voters, at the expense of Australian businesses”.
Mr Gallagher said his company has a “grow our own” worker mentality, and aims to employ up to six new Australian apprentices each year. But lack of applications mean they can’t always meet their targets.
“To focus on this visa as somehow being the root of our employment problems shows a lack of willingness to address the real underlying issues,” he said.
He said governments should instead be trying to promote Australian employment by fixing the TAFE system, promote and funding school based apprenticeships and structured pathway programs.
Citrus grower Sue Brighenti said she didn’t expect the change to have a major impact on farmers, who don’t tend to employ many 457 visa holder.
Paul Pierotti, Griffith Business Chamber president, said agricultural businesses will feel it in other ways.
“Good luck if a farmer wants a shed built,” he said.
He called the scrapping of 457 visas a “typical populist metro-centric decision that’s just awful for the regions”.
Peter Knox, vice president of the Griffith branch of the Australian Labor Party, sees the move more as “opportune window dressing”.
He says he doesn’t have a problem with 457 visas, so long as companies make the effort to advertise the jobs to locals first and don’t use them to pay foreign workers below Award wages.
The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDDA) have said they are “highly concerned” about the impact the visa changes will have on regions like Griffith attracting International Medical Graduates (IMGs).
“IMGs have been a backbone of medical care in rural and remote Australia for many years — and they will continue to be for at least the next 5 years, and probably even up to 15 years,” RDAA President, Dr Ewen McPhee, said
Dr Alvin Lee, director of the master of marketing at Deakin University, and a former 457 visa holder who is researching Griffith economic development, says he expects the change to have “very minimal impact” on the region.
“Governments change visas all the time. It’ll be an inconvenience for some businesses in the MIA, but really there are many ways to attract migrants to a region and 457 visas are just one small way,” he said.