Australia’s visa rules have been relaxed to make it easier for farmers to hire skilled seasonal workers.
Sponsored sportspeople and artists will also be able to get new eight-year visas.
Updates to the country’s list of skilled occupations follow recent changes to the working holiday maker and seasonal worker visa programs.
“We want Australians filling Australian jobs but when this isn’t possible action is needed to ensure farmers can continue to operate,” Immigration Minister David Coleman said on Mar. 11.
Footballers and tennis coaches are among eight professions in the sports and arts sectors added to the long-term skills list.
“These changes recognise Australia’s passion for sports and the arts,” Coleman said.
“Having access to highly skilled professionals helps to develop local talent and facilitate skills and knowledge transfer.”
Dentists and anaesthetists will also be able to obtain working visas more easily, as the government grapples with skill shortages in regional communities.
Labor immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann said the government should make the training of Australian workers a priority.
“More and more occupations have crept their way onto the skilled occupation lists under the Liberals–with no guarantees from the Morrison government that local workers won’t be overlooked for overseas workers on 457-style visas,” Neumann said in a statement.
Labor has pledged to set up a new Australian Skills Authority to independently conduct labour market testing to determine genuine skills needs and restrict temporary work visas to those areas.
Under other new visa requirements starting on Monday, March 11, overseas-trained doctors wanting to work as general practitioners will be directed away from metropolitan areas to regional, rural, and remote communities.
Health bureaucrats are working with the Department of Home Affairs to implement the visa requirements.
Specific Farm Visa Too Narrow: Minister
Assistant Agriculture Minister Richard Colbeck has poured cold water on a push for a specific visa for farm workers, arguing the idea is too narrow.
The Liberal senator said people should be able to work in other sectors across regional Australia, including tourism, pushing back against calls from the National Farmers’ Federation for an agriculture visa.
“I don’t think a specific ag (agriculture) visa in itself actually works,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday, March 6.
A range of employment options needed to be included to provide labour to farmers and other sectors.
“Quite frankly, you’re doing a disservice by narrowing it down to just an ag visa,” he said.
Morrison last year committed to an agriculture visa in the medium to long-term after a failed push from the Nationals to get the proposal in place before harvest time.
Instead, the government extended the Pacific Labour Scheme and relaxed rules to allow backpackers longer stays in the country if they worked on farms.
“That’s what I mean about narrowing it and just wanting to call it an ag visa—there’s a number of changes that have been made,” Senator Colbeck said.
“They will make a contribution to the availability of that workforce. My view is that we’ll probably need to continue to look at that as the demand for labour continues to grow.”
The assistant minister also had a warning for the horticulture sector, which has been plagued by claims of worker exploitation and illegal overseas workers.
“There’s all sorts of pressures there, but if they don’t do the right thing they’ll get locked out of the market and that will do more damage to their business than anything else,” he said.