Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made a shock announcement back in April, declaring that the 457 visa program was dead and buried, and that it was time to put Australian workers first.
That claim will be ringing hollow in the ears of New England’s youth today, who continue to languish under an unemployment rate of more than 19% – double the national average – while Thomas Foods Tamworth has just been approved to bring in 20 new 457 visa workers.
Unlike Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce, we’ve actually spent time on the streets of Tamworth talking to the youth of New England. They’re desperate for work, but no matter how many times they apply at the major meat processors in the area, they can’t seem to get a foot in the door.
Could it be a coincidence that these major processors, including Thomas Foods, all lean heavily on 457 visa workers (as well as 417 and 462 backpacker and holiday visa workers)?
How can the 457 visa program be “dead” as Malcolm Turnbull claims, when Thomas Foods, Australia’s third-largest food processor with more than $1.3 billion in revenue each year, is given approval to bring in 20 more workers?
Malcolm Turnbull likes to talk about labour market testing, but where was the genuine, independent local labour market testing that showed New England somehow needed even more foreign workers while unemployment is so high?
It’s not like Australia is suffering from a shortage of skilled meat workers – with so many abattoirs closing down, more Australian meat workers are underemployed or out of work than ever before.
These new 457 visa workers are as much a victim of this terrible system as everyone else – they’re forced to act as modern indentured slaves to Thomas Foods.
Under the broken 457 visa program, Thomas Foods has total control over them and can withdraw support for them at any time, instantly deporting them. How is that fair on anybody?
Australia is rapidly heading down a path towards a terrifying American labour model – the sort of system where poultry workers have to wear diapers on the production line because they can’t afford to take breaks, and where workers are chained to their employer by restrictive clauses and visa systems.
Is this really the right time for Malcolm Turnbull to be giving the green light on importing indentured foreign labour?
All Australians should be deeply concerned about the future of Australian jobs under Malcolm Turnbull. The 457 visa program is far from dead, but Turnbull has no problem killing off the future of young Australians if it means his mates in big business can make a tidy profit.