Visa changes must be refined
FINDING and retaining good employees will be harder if the Federal Government maintains its current position on 457 visa reforms. It’s a frustrating position for the industry to find itself in. Intuitive, hard-working employees are difficult to find and many farmers have gone to great effort and cost to employ skilled workers from overseas. The Government’s proposed changes to the dairy sector could lead to roadblocks for farmers and also the processing industry. The 457 visa, which the Government and the Opposition say have been exploited by employees, particularly in the fast food sector, will be replaced by two new temporary skills visas — a two-year visa and a four-year visa “targeted at higher skills.” The Government will also cut the number of occupations available for a two-year visa. The Australian Dairy Industry Council has gone into bat for the industry since the Government’s announcement in April and will have its work cut out for it right up until March, when the visa reforms will be finalised. On July 1 it found its lobbying has had some impact, when five occupations in the processing sector were reinstated to the skilled occupation lists. However, the ADIC said ‘Dairy Cattle Farmers’ can only be employed for two years (with capacity for renewal onshore once only), with no pathway to permanent residency. An extra levy has also been applied, which would be paid by farmers. The changes will have a significant effect on the industry if they go unchallenged and unchanged. The ADIC is working hard but the Coalition’s junior partner, the National Party, must stand up for dairy farmers and the wider agricultural workforce and show Prime Minister Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton what a modern agricultural business requires. Jobs on dairy farms can’t be filled by contacting Centrelink. The correct attitude is required. The 457 visa program has been vital to the industry and changes in their current detrimental state are an added burden the Government must remove.