Extract from an article by Peter Mares
The latest changes to temporary migration are more than a rebranding, but they make a complex system even more complicated and are being sold in a way that damages social cohesion.
The federal government is “abolishing” the 457 “temporary work (skilled)” visa and replacing it with a “temporary skills shortage” or “TSS” visa. At first glance, this might look like a rebranding exercise, and while that’s certainly true in some respects, the change also reshapes both temporary and permanent migration in significant ways.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says that the 457 visa has “lost its credibility.” Immigration minister Peter Dutton asserts that “the 457 brand was tarnished beyond recognition.” But temporary skilled migration will continue, so Turnbull and Dutton obviously hope they can alter the public’s perception of this complex and contentious policy area by changing the terminology from “457” to “TSS.” Good luck with that.
Both the manner of the announcement – via a prime-ministerial Facebook post – and the choice of words – “Australia first” – show that this was also an attempt to rebrand and reposition a struggling government. In the course of an interview on AM, the prime minister referred more than a dozen times to putting Australians first, putting Australian jobs first or putting Australian values first. Turnbull’s Trumpish rhetoric is aimed at reversing the voter drift to populist anti-immigration campaigners like Pauline Hanson and makes his celebration of Australia as “the most successful multicultural nation in the world” look mealy-mouthed.
The last Labor government restored labour-market testing in a more limited form in 2013 and was roundly chastised for doing so by the Coalition, which was then in opposition.
Particularly egregious is the backhanded suggestion that 457 visa holders are somehow undermining “Australian values” (however they may be defined). There’s no evidence to suggest that they are doing much more than working hard and paying taxes, all without drawing on any government benefits or healthcare. They are the sort of people past conservative politicians were wont to describe as “lifters, not leaners.” The reality is less that temporary migrant workers want to undermine Australian values and more that many of them want to embrace them by becoming more fully Australian, as permanent residents and citizens. Turnbull’s cynical language promotes the divisive perception that a significant proportion of temporary migrants are here illegitimately or somehow rorting the system. In the context of increasingly assertive expressions of xenophobic nationalism, this is playing with fire in the pursuit of short-term political advantage…
SOURCE: Mares, Peter. “The 457 Visa is Dead! Long live the TSS?” Inside Story, 20 April 2017.
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