Simplification of skilled migration

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1 Simplification of skilled migration and temporary activity visa programs Tourism & Hospitality Industry Response JANUARY 2015 NTA Logo Page 1

2 RESTAURANT & CATERING AUSTRALIA Restaurant & Catering Australia (R&CA) is the national association representing the interests of 35,000 restaurants, cafes and catering businesses across Australia. R&CA delivers tangible outcomes to small businesses within the hospitality industry by influencing the policy decisions and regulations that impact the sector s operating environment. This includes advocating the broader social and economic contribution of the sector to industry and government stakeholders, as well as highlighting the value of the restaurant experience to the public. ACCOMMODATION ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA The Accommodation Association of Australia (AAoA) is a dedicated specialist organisation working for employers in the accommodation industry. The AAoA represent a cross section of industry members including hotels, resorts, motels, bed and breakfasts, backpackers, caravan parks, timeshares, chains and independent operators in metropolitan and regional Australia. Our aim is to support operators, protect business interests and promote a strong and vibrant accommodation sector throughout Australia. AUSTRALIAN TOURISM EXPORT COUNCIL The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) is the peak industry body representing Australia s $30 billion tourism export sector. ATEC represents more than 800 members across Australia including large national and multinational companies as well as small- and medium-sized enterprises, many of whom are based in regional and remote parts of Australia. Our members include inbound tour operators and online distributors who connect Australian tourism products with vital distribution channels in key overseas markets. NATIONAL TOURISM ALLIANCE The National Tourism Alliance (NTA) is a national forum for advocating to the Federal Government on issues of common interest for Australian tourism and hospitality businesses. Membership comprises the major industry associations as well as the State Tourism Industry Councils who together represent the interests of over 90,000 tourism and hospitality businesses across Australia. Page 2

3 PROPOSAL PAPER: Simplification of the skilled migration and temporary activity visa programmes December 2014 The tourism and hospitality sector welcomed the Review of the Skilled Migration and 400 Series visa programmes back in September 2014, presenting a joint submission on behalf of Restaurant & Catering Australia (R&CA), the Accommodation Association of Australia (AAoA), the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC), and the National Tourism Alliance (NTA). Industry's views presented in December and in this paper are consistent with, and are to be considered in the broader context of calls by the tourism and hospitality sector to reform Australia's visa system. As representatives of 280,000 tourism and hospitality businesses across Australia, the sector supports reform that will make visas easier, quicker, and cheaper, driving demand and improving our international competitiveness as a destination. These reforms will help fill the estimated 56,000 vacancies in tourism-related jobs across the country and provide greater access to short-term labour solutions particularly in regional areas, thereby enabling businesses to develop, grow and innovate. The industry recognises the benefits of streamlining Australia s skilled migration system, particularly in terms of facilitating the movement of temporary skilled labour to more permanent arrangements within the sector. The industry is particularly pleased to see consideration has been given to more accessible pathways for migrants completing study within Australia. However, while the tourism industry supports the streamlining of the visa system, many of the fundamental issues the sector has with the skilled migration system remain unchanged, particularly the recognition of Skill Level 4 occupations on the Skilled Occupation List, English language requirements reflecting the skill level required by the occupation, and the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) providing a more comparable salary to that of Australian workers in the same position. While the Integrity Review of the Subclass 457 Visa Programme will go some way in addressing these issues, no definitive reform has received commitment. The following document summarises key comments from the sector s largest tourism industry associations in relation to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection s Proposal Paper issued in December While the sector remains supportive of the simplification of the visa process, clarification is required on the exact impact these changes will have on positions of greatest need by the sector. Page 3

4 SHORT TERM MOBILITY VISA The scope of this visa subclass will be explored in reflection of stakeholder feedback during the development phase. The industry supports in principal the establishment of a short term mobility visa allowing temporary migration of workers for up to 12 months. This will significantly address chronic shortages affecting the tourism and hospitality sector at present. The industry is however seeking clarification that this visa: Will not include a pathway to permanent residency this pathway will be reserved for the Temporary Skilled Visa; Positions in high demand within the tourism and hospitality sector will be eligible for this pathway including Cooks, Chefs, Restaurant Managers, Front Office Managers/Supervisors and Trade Waiters (Skill levels 1-4); Visa processing and eligibility criteria will be streamlined (and differentiated from the current 457 Temporary Skilled visa process). TEMPORARY SKILLED In relation labour agreements, explore opportunities to extend occupation lists to include agreed skill level 4 occupations. The industry supports the proposal to expand the Temporary Skilled visa class to include skill level 4 occupations. For the tourism and hospitality industry, this would provide access to many low-skilled occupations which are in chronic demand including kitchenhands, trade waiters and tour guides. However, the sector believes the extension of occupation lists should not solely be isolated to labour agreements. Kitchenhands, waiters and tour guides are some of the most in demand positions within the sector and the tourism and hospitality industry would benefit from greater access to these positions. Industry is cognisant that recommendations from the Independent Review of the Integrity of the Subclass 457 Programme will also need to be considered in the redesign of the skilled migration system in Australia. In particular, the sector is seeking clarification regarding the abolition of labour market testing, concessions on English language requirements, and regional concessions for the TSMIT. The sector understands that it may be outside the scope of this Discussion Paper to examine these issues, however urges Government to implement the recommendations of the Integrity Review with regard to these areas. Page 4

5 PERMANENT INDEPENDENT TESTED VISA Examine the permanent independent points tested visa programme with a focus on applicants with desirable employment prospects, retaining international students who have studied in Australia, as well as the option to attract skilled migrants to defined geographic areas of Australia. Explore how new and emerging skilled occupations can be identified including the potential for an interdepartmental panel of labour market researchers to predict technological changes and monitor skill shortages and industry needs in the short, medium and long-term. The tourism industry supports this proposal, particularly in relation to retaining international students that have undertaken studies here in Australia. Australia s international education sector is a $15 billion industry which could act as a valuable source of skilled labour for the sector. This is particularly true for front-of-house occupations where tourism businesses currently lack the language skills to meaningfully engage with Australia s largest inbound source markets. The outlined proposal may also go some way in appeasing concerns over the cessation of the Trade Skills Training Visa (Subclass 471). However, the sector is seeking an avenue to allow for structured training and work (such as an apprenticeship) as was provided by the Trade Skills Training Visa. The focus on regional Australia is also welcomed by industry, as incentives in this area would provide an avenue to address growing skills shortages in these areas, provided tourism and hospitality positions are eligible for consideration. The industry supports this proposal in principle, but believes more needs to be done to remedy existing chronic shortages in traditional trades such as hospitality which have remained unchanged for a decade. Employment growth in the restaurant, café and takeaway sector is expected to be greater than any other sector, yet remedies to address these skills shortages have remained relatively minor. With this is mind, the industry supports recommendations from the Integrity Review calling for a dedicated labour market analysis resource to be provided to a tripartite ministerial advisory council (should such council be established). Page 5

6 PERMANENT INDEPENDENT TESTED VISA Explore the use of differential ceilings for individual occupations on a single consolidated list. Explore the requirement for skills assessment for visa applicants who have undertaken studies in Australia; and explore the possibility of alternative means of demonstrating skill and qualifications. 9 Explore the benefits of listing occupations at the 4 digit ANZSCO (unit group) level (rather than 6-digit level) and allow the TRA to place training package-defined occupations under these broad groupings. The tourism industry supports this proposal in principle should it recognise the distinct characteristics of tourism employment in metropolitan and regional Australia. Such an approach would possibly acknowledge that the scale of skill shortages differ from occupation to occupation (i.e. the shortage of cooks and chefs will be greater than other occupations within other sectors). However, the industry believes there is a need for a formal process to determine the size of shortages now that AWPA no longer exists. The industry supports this proposal as a means of encouraging and creating a pathway for international students to enter the Australian workforce, particularly in the tourism and hospitality sector. The industry also supports identifying alternative means of demonstrating skill and qualifications, particularly for specialised chefs or waiters where their skill set may be particularly niche or determined by years of experience. Effective assessments must take place in an integrated and holistic way against National Qualifications. The industry is supportive of aligning qualifications and occupations for migration purposes to facilitate effective assessments against National Qualifications, but would question the necessity of broader categories. Page 6

7 PERMANENT INDEPENDENT TESTED VISA Explore the potential to utilise a points test visa framework to identify visa applicants that have an internationally recognised record of exceptional and outstanding achievement in a profession. The tourism industry supports this proposal in principle but requires further information on the design and framework of the proposed points system. PERMANENT SKILLED VISA Following on from the Independent Review of the subclass 457 programme, explore opportunities to replicate recommendations accepted by government across the proposed visa programme. The industry supports this proposal in principle however requires greater guidance as to which recommendations of the review are likely to be accepted and enacted by government. In particular, the sector is seeking clarification regarding the abolition of labour market testing, concessions on English language requirements, and regional concessions for the TSMIT. Amendments to the Skilled Occupation List in line with recommendations of the Integrity Review will also be of interest to the sector. Review the pathway to permanent residency for 457 holders and determine whether pathways need to be tightened, expanded or removed. The industry supports the review of the pathway to permanent residency for 457 visa holders, many of whom represent a considerable proportion of the tourism and hospitality workforce. Page 7

8 PERMANENT SKILLED VISA In concert with investigations of the Permanent Independent Test, explore the rationale for continuing Direct Entry stream, including whether this stream could be removed or narrowed to allow for only specific skill levels or location of work. The tourism industry supports this proposal in principle so long as the decision to review the Direct Entry stream does not impact the ability of the sector to access skilled labour. The sector would not support a narrowing of this stream should flexibilities not be afforded elsewhere in the system. Furthermore, the industry observes that continued increases in the requirements and obligations placed on sponsors restricts the number of small businesses for whom sponsorship would have been a viable option to source labour. This being the case, the tourism industry would be concerned if the Direct Entry stream were to be restricted without the Employer Sponsored stream being made less onerous for small businesses. In concert with areas of investigation under the labour agreement framework, explore whether there are opportunities to implement a tiered framework around the progression from labour agreement to the permanent skilled visa. While the industry notes R&CA are in the development stages of an industry labour agreement with Government, the sector would support the investigation of streamlined pathways from labour agreements to permanent skilled visas. This would potentially reduce the attrition of skilled labour from the hospitality workforce. The try before you buy nature of 457 visas has long been acknowledged as a safeguard to permanent migration. The uncertainty of recruitment from off-shore should also be a consideration in retaining the pathway from temporary to permanent migration. Page 8

9 OTHER AREAS OF DISCUSSION TRANSPOSED VISAS: Attachment C outlines proposed changes to the current visa program. Of particular note is that the Temporary Work (subclass 457) visa will be transposed to the Temporary Skilled visa. What is unclear is where the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) will be transposed to, although there have been indications throughout the Discussion Paper that it may be integrated into varying parts of other visa streams. WORKING HOLIDAY MAKERS: While the industry appreciates the design of the Working Holiday Maker programme is outside the scope of this review, industry has been provided with an indication that this system would be reviewed separately within the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Given the importance of the program to the sector, the industry is seeking further clarification over the parameters, timing and possibility for industry consultation as part of this review. Page 9

10 For more information regarding this submission please contact: RESTAURANT & CATERING AUSTRALIA PO Box 121 SURRY HILLS NSW 2010 T F Page 1

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