Visa changes 'disappointing'

SUPPORT: Caleb, left, Jarad and Tom Smith say the 457 visa program has been a boon for their business.

SUPPORT: Caleb, left, Jarad and Tom Smith say the 457 visa program has been a boon for their business.

A TRAILBLAZING piggery owner has slammed the Coalition's decision to abolish the skilled migration program that has been crucial to the growth and prosperity of his family's business. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Tuesday that the 457 visa would be scrapped and replaced with a temporary skill shortage visa, comprising two streams, one two-year and one four-year. The four-year visa will be limited to those with higher skills. 

Visa applicants will need to meet more stringent conditions, including a higher standard of English, a two-year work experience requirement and a criminal history check, while the list of eligible jobs will be reduced by more than 200. 

The application fee for a two-year visa will rise from $1060 to $1150, while the cost of a four-year visa will more than double to $2400. 

In addition, holders of the two year visa will not be able to apply for permanent residency at the end of their time in Australia. 

Jarad Smith, who operates the industry-leading Kia-Ora Piggery at Yarrawalla with his brother, Caleb and father, Tom, said any move to make it more difficult to skilled migrants to come to Australia was counterproductive. 

"I'm disappointed to see the 457 visa gone and see that the new process will be made more difficult because particularly in rural areas we have so much trouble maintaining the skill level we need in our workforce," he said.

"We have a lot of trouble filling the skills required from Australian workers so we've relied heavily on workers on 457 visas; I don't feel like the 457 visa in our situation has taken jobs from Australians and given them to overseas people because it's simply about filling jobs that we cannot fill with Australian workers." 

The business started employing workers from the Philippines nine years ago, and currently employs six people on 457 visas. 

"Initially the workers we brought over were the ones with veterinary experience because we just could not source people locally with a high enough skill level to care for the pigs and maintain the piggery to the standard we needed," Mr Smith said. 

"Now the skill level of our overall workforce is probably almost double that of what it would be if we weren't able to bring people in on 457s."

Mr Smith said while the piggery also employed hard-working and skilled Australian workers, "generally there are a lot of Australians who don't see working in a piggery as a desirable job and quite often might work for a piggery for an income until they find something they'd prefer to do so".

Current 457 visa holders will be exempt from the changes. The new visa will come into force by March 2018.

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