Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Australia to toughen visa regime

Legal immigration to Australia is not fulfilling its purpose - providing qualified personnel to the labor market. Instead, the 457 visa is used for unskilled workers to enter the country, predominantly from Asia. This is the keynote of recent speeches by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, former leader of "One Nation" Pauline Hanson and union leader Dave Oliver.

Standard Business Sponsorship (Subclass 457) is the law under which one can legally enter Australia under a simplified procedure without confirmation of the level of English. According to the Department of Immigration, currently over 80 thousand people work on this visa in the country. It was introduced in 1996 to attract skilled workers into the country for up to four years. After this period, immigrants are eligible for permanent residency.

Leader of the ruling Labor Party Julia Gillard spoke last week to voters in Western Sydney. Gillard said that employers were abusing their right to attract highly skilled workers under the simplified scheme, and under the guise of IT and medical staff, unqualified people enter the country to work as security guards, service industry workers, and so on, thus taking away jobs from the local population. According to her program, the 457 visa does not justify its purpose and the government is ready to consider its abolition, The Australian reported.

The information was confirmed by Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor, who said that the government would do its best to rectify the situation where foreign workers are heading the line for non-skilled jobs. "There are times when Australian workers are discriminated against due to the abuse of the program. Employers knowingly hire people from other countries, not giving a chance to the locals," he said. He noted that even the tighter measures adopted in July of 2012 (confirmation of English skills and mandatory two-year period of full-time employment) have not yielded positive results.

Even some party fellows called these statements "sinister" and mentioned the return of "White Australia Policy," a federal program of 1901-1973 designed to prevent the non-White immigration, particularly Asian. The issue of illegal immigration to Australia has always been acute (Gillard came to power on the wave of a new approach to the issue, proposing to redirect illegals to special centers), and for the first time since 1973 Australia is wondering whether tighter regulation of legal citizenship is needed.

Of course, one should consider the fact that this "witch hunt" is always revived in Australia before the general federal elections scheduled for September 14, 2013, and yet it is an indication of a strong nationalist sentiment in the Australian society. It is no accident that former leader of the far-right "One Nation" Pauline Hanson stepped out on the stage again. She stated that she decided to return to politics and participate in the upcoming elections as an independent. Speaking on March 5th of this year at a popular TV channel, she said that she did not believe politicians who acted on behalf of Australians. Hanson stated that instead of whining about it, she decided to get up and do something.

"One Nation" party in 1998 received 22 percent of the vote in the parliamentary elections in Queensland and 9 percent in federal elections, but gradually lost its position. "One Nation" believes that a split is developing in the Australian society caused by the policy of multiculturalism and the need to drastically reduce immigration. The party called for restoration of import tariffs, revival of the Australian industry, and support for small business and agriculture.

Hanson is known for her warning about "Asia-tion" of Australia and as a defender of "Australian culture" from Muslim immigration. In 2011 she made an attempt to get into the parliament of South Wales with these slogans, but failed. This is her new attempt, but now she has a more sophisticated program. Hanson supported Gillard with the attacks on the 457 visa. Hanson said this was the only issue on which she agreed with Gillard as she thought it to be the back door to immigration. She spoke of the need to undertake the most extensive investigation of abuse. She added that the Labor Party conducted a wrong policy for immigrants, giving them preferential treatment, which is not fair for the Australians. She concluded that she did not mind people coming to Australia, but it had to be done in a right way.

Australian trade unions are also in favor of tougher immigration laws. Dave Oliver from the Australian Council of Trade Unions said that last year 40 percent growth in the number of visas issued under the 457 visa program was registered, and the number of jobs, for example, in the construction sector, fell by 70,000.

Australia is another country abandoning reliance on the "population pyramid" for its economic development. Japan, South Korea, and Singapore are in the same situation. In a crisis, the increase in population by encouraging immigration leads not to an increase in demand and corporate profits, but increase of pressure on mega-cities and reduction of the overall quality of life.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2009 China became the main provider of legal immigrants. That year, 8,151 Chinese and 7,739 Indians legally entered the country, while migrants from the UK and New Zealand amounted to 4,282 and 3,696, respectively. They were followed by immigrants from Sri Lanka (2,484), the Philippines (2,112), Malaysia (1,638), South Africa (1,477) and Vietnam (1,347).

Lyuba Lulko


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