The federal government will abolish 457 visas for skilled foreign workers, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced.
The visa class – along with the 417 backbacker visa – is heavily relied upon by some businesses in the Murraylands’ food processing industry.
In a video posted on Facebook, the PM said the changes would be about putting Australians first.
“Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs,” he said.
“We’ll no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians.”
We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains: Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs. So we're abolishing ... the visas that bring temporary foreign workers into our country.
A temporary skill shortage visa will be introduced to allow employers to find the skilled workers they need.
The new visa will be subject to work experience and English language tests for workers, and labour market testing to prove jobs can not be filled locally.
Companies will also be barred from employing foreign workers in particular roles, including as butchers.
The changes will be phased in over the next year.
Workers already living in Australia on 457 visas will not be affected – they will keep their jobs and be allowed to stay in the country under the old rules until their visas run out.
In recent years, companies such as Thomas Foods International and Costa Adelaide Mushrooms have defended their use of foreign workers in the face of criticism from some local residents, including at a forum in Murray Bridge during the last federal election campaign.
A parliamentary enquiry last year also found the current visa system left foreign workers open to exploitation.
The 457 temporary work visa allows skilled migrant workers who are sponsored by an employer, and who fill an area of need, to live in Australia for up to four years.