The Coalition Government has announced it will scrap the controversial 457 visa program in favour of a new “better targeted” approach
Hospital pharmacists (ANZSCO: 251511), industrial pharmacists (251512) and retail pharmacists (251513) have remained on the Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List; this has been supported by the Pharmacy Guild.
A Guild spokesperson told the AJP today that it did not have information to hand on the uptake of 457 visas through Australian employers of community pharmacists.
However, “Recognising the supply shortage for pharmacists in some parts of rural and regional Australia, the Guild has acknowledged the role of 457 visas as one of several potential means to address shortages,” the spokesperson says.
In its most recent submission to the Federal Government in relation to the Skilled Occupations list, the Guild argued that community pharmacists should remain off the Skilled Occupation List but on the Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List.
“The Guild’s position is the occupation of Community (Retail) Pharmacist (ANZSCO: 251513) should remain off the Skilled Occupation List for 2017,” it said in the submission. “The Guild acknowledges that there may be shortages of pharmacists in rural/remote areas due to mal-distribution between metropolitan and regional Australia.
“However the SOL may not assist in solving the problem and that it should instead be addressed through appropriate domestic pharmacy workforce planning and offer of appropriate conditions and incentives.
“In circumstances where employers still identify a recruitment issue in regional, remote or low population growth areas of Australia, some temporary overseas recruitment options should remain available to fill skilled vacancies in their businesses.
“As such, it is essential that pharmacists remain listed on the Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List (CSOL) which applies to the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS), State Sponsored Migration Scheme and Temporary Business Long Stay (457).”
According to Department of Immigration and Border Protection data, 107 pharmacists (seven hospital, 98 retail) had held a 457 visa as at 31 December 2016.
In announcing the demise of the 457 program today, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Coalition Government was “putting Australians first”.
“The fact remains Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs, so we’re abolishing the 457 visas,” he said. “We’ll no longer allow 457s to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians.
“However it is important businesses still get access to the skills they need to grow and invest, so the 457 visa will be replaced by a new temporary visa specifically designed to recruit the best and the brightest in the national interest.
“The new visa will better target the genuine skills shortages including in regional Australia.”
It will include new requirements such as better English language proficiency, prior work experience and labour market testing, the PM says.
The National Rural Health Alliance criticised the move, saying that banning 457 visas will have an “immediate and potentially significant impact” on the recruitment of health professionals in rural and remote Australia. It did not specify which groups of health professional would be most affected.