Press Conference with the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, The Hon. Peter Dutton MP

April 18, 2017
Transcripts

E&OE…

PRIME MINISTER:

Good afternoon.

Now, the Labor Party, of course, consisted of Olympic champions in the issuance of 457 Visas. Bill Shorten, the gold medal winner among them all. During his time the number of 457s increased by two-thirds, during the last term of the Labor Government.

And less than 10% of that increase went to the mining sector. So, this wasn't about the mining boom and the need to bring in new skilled workers. These were people, working as labourers, working flipping burgers.

The fact is that Bill Shorten likes to talk about Australian jobs, but whenever he's had the opportunity in government to protect them, he's failed them. So we are bringing the 457 Visa class to an end. It's lost its credibility. We will replace it with two new temporary skills visas. The Minister will go into some more detail on them. They will be very different.

Firstly, there will be a two-year visa stream, with a broader list of occupations, reduced, I might say, from the current list by over 200. So, this is a very substantial reduction in the list of skills that qualify for these visas. There will be a two-year visa. That will require, as will a second visa for four-years, two-years work experience, prior work experience - that is not the case at the moment. It will require in the case of the four-year visa a higher standard of English. It will require a full, a proper police record, a criminal check, which is not the case at the moment. It will require in almost all cases, the majority of cases, mandatory labour market testing. Again, a very significant change.

Now, these new visas will ensure that Australian businesses have access to the workers from overseas they need to fill real skill gaps, but not otherwise, and that Australians, wherever possible, where vacancies are there, where job opportunities are there, Australians will be able to fill them.

This is critically important. Believe me, we should not underestimate either our success as a multicultural society or the fact that our success is built on a foundation of confidence by the Australian people that it is their government and their government alone that determines in the national interest who comes here and the terms on which they come and how long they stay.

Now, whether it is on border protection and Labor's shameful record on people smuggling - recall 50,000 unauthorised arrivals, over 1,200 deaths at sea - that was Labor's record on the borders. They failed to keep our borders secure, and they failed to manage a 457 system, a temporary migration system in the national interest. We are changing that.

The 457 Visa is abolished.

It will be replaced by a new system that will be manifestly, rigorously, resolutely conducted in the national interest to put Australians and Australian jobs first. That's our commitment. Australian jobs, Australian values.

Minister?

MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION:

Prime Minister, thank you very much.

I will just go into a little bit of detail but the abolition of the 457 Visa programme obviously is an attempt to clean-up Labor's mess. Labor presided over a policy which got out-of-control by their own admission.

What we are doing is making some significant changes in abolishing the programme, but introducing a temporary skills shortage visa through two streams - one a short-term, one medium-term - and by doing that, we restore integrity to this visa programme.

At the moment the existing 457 Visa programme is conducted for a period of 4-years, but essentially it is open-ended, and it results, in many cases, in a migration outcome, that is somebody going into permanent residency and becoming a citizen, which is a significant part of the attraction to using the 457 Visa.

What we propose is that under the Temporary Skills Shortage Visa short-term stream there will be a two-year visa, with the options of two-years, but there would not be permanent residency outcomes at the end of that.

In relation to the medium-term stream, which as the Prime Minister pointed out, is targeted at higher skills, a much shorter skills list, that will be for a period of four years, can be applied for onshore or offshore, and it's a significant tightening of the way in which that programme operates.

The other significant aspect is the work experience, which doesn't apply now and also some mandated arrangements in relation to market testing. So, at the moment quite an open process, which doesn't put any onus really in practical terms on the person applying for the 457 Visa. We significantly tighten up those arrangements as well.

This is about putting Australians first for Australian jobs and it is about making sure that where those jobs can't be filled, particularly in regional areas, that there is the ability to bring in that overseas worker into that job that can't be filled by an Australian worker.

So, this is a significant announcement and I'm very pleased that the Prime Minister and I have been working on this for some time, and I think this will make a big difference to young Australians, in particular, who would have been bewildered by Bill Shorten's announcement at the time of the arrangement with McDonalds and the other fast food outlets, that displaced young Australian workers out of work and put foreign workers into those jobs. So, it does make a big change and I think it will be welcomed by all Australians.

JOURNALIST:

What happens to those currently in Australia on 457 Visas now?

MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION:

For those people that are here on a 457 Visa at the moment, there will be a grandfathering arrangement. They will continue under the conditions of that visa.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Turnbull or Mr Dutton, with the four-year visa, the new one that you’re bringing in, does that, people on that enabled to apply for permanent residency at the end of it? And on both of the new classes of visa, are you saying there are 200 fewer occupations they will be applicable for than currently?

MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION:

Yes to the first part, Phil.

The second answer is that it is reduced by 200 - the number of classifications in the short-term and it goes back even further so, it is even tighter for the medium-term one, and as I say, it is a 4-year as opposed to two, the prospect of permanent residency out of it, and typically that might apply, for example, to high-skilled health workers, but certainly people of higher skills would be applying under that 4-year or that medium-term.

JOURNALIST:

So how many categories will the four-year visa apply to?

PRIME MINISTER:

183.

JOURNALIST:

What will the labour market testing entail? And will the application fees remain the same? I think it is about $1,060 at the moment for the applicant. Will that remain the same or will that be increased?

MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION:

In relation to the advertising, the advertising will be required, whereas it is not at the moment. The fee is $1,150 for the - I will just get the actual figure for you - $1,150 for the first short-term category, and the medium-term is $2,400.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Turnbull, what numbers, what difference will this make on the estimates in terms of people coming in, say, over the next four years? And, secondly, have you run this past major employer groups and what's their reaction?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, let me deal with the numbers first, and then Peter can elaborate.

At the moment there are around 95,000 457 Visa holders in Australia. That's the current figure and of course, they were issued, some of them, a very long time ago. As Peter said, they were issued in the first instance for four years, and can be rolled over onshore. So, they often do end up as being a permanent migration outcome.

Now, we are changing that, so, as you know, the two-year visa, up to two years, the short-term visa, can be renewed for two years onshore, and then the holder would have to go offshore, if they wanted to, if their employer wanted them to apply again. And the four-year visa is more focused on strategic skill gaps that are more longer term. These skills-

JOURNALIST:

So do you have the estimates?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sorry?

JOURNALIST:

Do you have the estimates?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me just go on.

Because we are narrowing significantly the number of occupations and we are increasing the qualifications that visa applicants need to have, it is our expectation that all other things being equal you will see a material reduction over time of people working on these temporary visas, but, Michelle, it depends upon all other things being equal, and, which, they are not. It depends on the demands of the economy, emerging skill gaps, changes in the economy.

So, the fact is that the migration programme should only operate in our national interest. This is all about Australia's interest. This is about jobs for Australians. It is about growing the Australian economy, so that Australian families can realise their dreams, that Australian businesses can invest and employ and get ahead. That is what it's all about. So, this rigorous focus, this laser-like focus on our national interest will ensure that where skill gaps arise and can't be filled by Australians, then foreign workers can come in, but not otherwise.

MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION:

Michelle, I’ll just go to the second part of your question in relation to employer groups. We have had some discussions with employer groups. It comes off the back, remember, of the John Azarius review done to have a look at this whole space, and we have picked up many of the recommendations that he made in that review. I will let the groups speak for themselves. But by and large, there's acceptance and welcoming of many components of what we've announced today.

JOURNALIST:

One of the problems in this space has been the unwillingness of young Australians, particularly in areas of high unemployment, to take the jobs that people on 457s are prepared to do. MPs have talked about job snobs in that case-

PRIME MINISTER:

Not this MP.

JOURNALIST:

What are you doing on that side of the equation? Is there a need to also make changes to the welfare system to force people to take those jobs that otherwise 457 Visa holders would take?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well can I say to you that all of the whole welfare system is designed to provide real incentives for employment in every respect, and we have produced innovative measures, like the PaTH Programme, you know, the Prepare-Trial-Hire Programme. It is a fundamental focus of all of our reforms in welfare to fulfil that great observation of John Howard - that the best form of welfare is a job.

JOURNALIST:

Pauline Hanson has already claimed credit for this, saying that the tough talk and the decision to ban 457s is because of One Nation's rhetoric. What is your response to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is a decision of my Government, and it is a decision of the Government and as Peter said it's followed on from a very careful examination of many of these issues by the John Azarius. This has been a careful exercise in policy development, and we're announcing the conclusions today.

JOURNALIST:

When we have the next mining and construction boom, will resources companies be able to quickly hire workers again or are they going to be looking at shortages?

PRIME MINISTER:

The new arrangements are focused on skill shortages and skill gaps and of course if there was, as I said earlier in answer to a question from Michelle Grattan, if new economic circumstances change, and they will of course, and new skill gaps or greater skill gaps emerge, then this has the flexibility to meet that.  It is a very responsive approach, but the fundamental difference is, it is focused relentlessly on the national interest and on ensuring that temporary migration visas are not a passport for foreigners to take up jobs that could and should be filled by Australians. Australian jobs for Australians first. That's the focus, that's what this will deliver.

JOURNALIST:

The 457 system is based on, based solely on filling skill shortages so aren't you just changing the name?

MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION:

Under Labor's programme, so their 457 programme existed to people in the employment categories - for example of potters, of driving instructors, of auctioneers, even workplace relations advisers you might be surprised to hear - so we have clamped down on that considerably.

And the whole focus here is as the Prime Minister says, firstly to, put Australians into jobs. If there is a skills shortage and the job can't be filled, then we look at what the purpose of the programme was originally designed to do and that is provide that person for that job. But the way in which it was used and abused by Labor, as the Prime Minister pointed out before, meant that number of 457 holders blew out to 110,000 when Bill Shorten was last in government and we have steadily reduced that down to 95,000. And we have in addition to the announcements today put in place extra measures which have already tightened up the use of 457 Visas. And if we need to do more we will.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, there was an independent report in government on this back in 2014, it said it shouldn't be the business that does the labour market testing and so we have to set the market, we need to get a 457, it should be an independent agency that does that. Are you going to implement that recommendation?

MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION:

No. We are going to work with the companies to make sure that they understand that they need to advertise, they need to demonstrate it, and they will, or they will be in breach - if they are in breach, they won't be sponsoring, then the next applicant or the next position that they need to be filled.

There also will be a particular focus on companies that have an unnecessarily high proportion of 457 or foreign workers in jobs as well. So there will be a number of ways in which we can clamp down, as I say, we've already implemented some of that which has seen the numbers drop now down to sub-100,000, compared to the 110,000 under Labor.

JOURNALIST:

Just want to take you to North Korea - can you tell the Australian people whether they should be interested in what's happening on the North Korean peninsula? Are you concerned? Is it your advice that North Korea may reach a stage where its missiles could be delivered to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

The North Korea regime is a reckless and dangerous threat to peace and stability in our region and, indeed, in the world.

That's why we have joined with other nations, including our ally the United States, to put pressure on North Korea to stop its dangerous and reckless conduct. But the real obligation, the heaviest obligation is on China because China is the nation that has the greatest leverage over North Korea. It has the greatest obligation and responsibility to bring North Korea back into a realm of at least responsibility in terms of its engagement with its neighbours.

The North Korean regime is a threat to the peace of the region. It is a threat to all of its neighbours in the region, and if it were able to obtain, develop a missile that could travel as far as the United States with a warhead, or as far as Australia, then it obviously could threaten Australia and indeed, the United States. But as Vice President Pence said, the strategic patience has come to an end, and so what we're now looking forward to is action from China.

Clearly the United States and China are speaking very closely about this and we welcome that.

In all of my engagements with Chinese leaders over the years I have always stressed the responsibility of China to take action with respect to North Korea's conduct.

Now, the Chinese often express frustration with North Korea, and disappointment. But the fact is that they have the overwhelming leverage over the North Korea regime. So, the eyes of the world are now on Beijing, and Beijing has to step up and bring this reckless threat to the peace and stability of our region to an end.

JOURNALIST:

What would you like to see China do? For example, should they restrict oil imports to North Korea? And how will Australia respond if there is another nuclear test?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, can I say that China should do whatever it takes to - and it has many avenues and it has enormous leverage over North Korea, as everyone understands. It has obviously the longest border, the most important, by far, economic relationship. It has the ability, if it chooses, to exercise it to bring, to pull North Korea back into at least the position where it is not threatening to rain down devastation on its neighbours, which is what they’ve been doing.

The onus really is on China. It is a fact that China has the greatest influence over North Korea, and the time has come for the Chinese Government to exercise it.

JOURNALIST:

Just to come back to Chris’s questions though, what would be your message to Australians? I know over Easter family and friends wanted to ask me about North Korea. They’re quite worried by the reports. What’s your message on it?

PRIME MINISTER:

My message is to Australians that their Government, my Government, is committed to ensuring that the North Korean regime acts responsibly.

Now, we don't have the leverage that China does. We obviously don't have the military might that the United States does. But what we are able to do is to provide the solidarity and the influence we can in international forums and in our direct engagement with other nations.

I had the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang here only a little while ago. And this issue I raised with him as I’ve raised with the President Xi Jinping.

So we add our voice to the voice of many other nations in the region, supporting the efforts to bring this reckless conduct to an end.

That is our commitment and I believe now the conversations, the engagement between China and the United States is such that I am optimistic, but not unduly so, I'm optimistic that a resolution can be found because as Vice President Pence said in a statement I think that will concentrate the minds of all involved - the strategic patience has come to an end.

JOURNALIST:

You’ve got a meeting tomorrow with the gas majors. Will it be the same message as last month where you’re threatening export controls unless they can free up more for domestic supply? Or is there some other approach you’re going to take tomorrow in that meeting?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we will be looking forward to the meeting with the gas producers tomorrow. As you know, we have ensured that there is a guarantee of gas for peaking power purposes, in the forthcoming summer. So that's been a very important achievement. But it is absolutely vital that Australian industries, Australian businesses, Australian families, have the gas they need at a price they can afford.

It is not acceptable for Australia to be, shortly, the world's largest exporter of LNG and, yet, to have a gas shortage on the east coast in its domestic market. That is clearly unacceptable.

And I’ll be continuing the discussions and the industry knows exactly where I stand and where my Government stands - we will defend the energy security of Australians and gas supply, reliable and affordable supply, is a key part of that.

So, I look forward to further discussions with the industry. We’ve made a lot of progress already, made a lot of progress already. But there is more to come.

And on that note, thank you, all, very much.

[ENDS]

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