Home Government Tech Policy Warning tech work may be sent overseas after 457 visas go

Warning tech work may be sent overseas after 457 visas go

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Facebook this afternoon that the government would abolish the 457 visa category which companies have been using for the last 21 years to bring in foreign workers to cover for the lack of local specialists. Critics say that this will lead to work going offshore.

ASX-listed technology agency Gruden says it will continue to need the services of imported talent in the short term to complete its contracts in Australia, else it may be forced to outsource work that it has taken on in the country.

Chief executive Tim Parker said in a statement that he hoped the new arrangements the government was making — following its announcement today that it would be abolishing 457 temporary work visas — would recognise this need.

The 457 visa was introduced under former Coalition prime minister John Howard in 1996 with the aim of attracting skilled workers and as part of a movement towards preferencing skilled migration over family reunion.

There are 95,758 people on 457 visas currently in the country.

Turnbull said, "the 457 visa will be replaced by a new temporary visa specifically designed to recruit the best and the brightest in the national interest".

Parker said: "As a technology company, Gruden has been heavily dependent on 457 visas to provide the top quality, qualified talent we need to deliver digital transformation to our clients.”

Gruden was awarded a contract for $1.8 million in February to upgrade the technology behind AusTender, the government's tender system. Among its other clients are Starbucks, Red Rooster and Hannover RE.

“With a number of our staff on such visas we applaud the grandfathering of existing 457s, as we do the intent to provide training to nurture local talent," Parker said.

“However given that many countries have been teaching coding in kindergarten for a decade or more, Australia is well behind in the tech talent stakes.

“Therefore we will continue to require imported talent in the short term, and hope the new arrangements recognise this need. Otherwise the imperative to offshore our software development could increase at the expense of the local economy."

Turnbull's announcement came on the same day that reports appeared of lower than normal applications for H-1B visas, the main route used by American companies to import foreign specialised labour in that country.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.