457 change shows danger of temporary labour arrangements in trade agreements

19 April 2017: While it’s clear that the Turnbull Government’s abolition of the 457 visa for temporary workers doesn't address the main problems with the visa, the decision does highlight why these arrangements should never be in trade agreements.

The Government has announced that the new visas will be subject to mandatory labour market testing by employers except for when "an international obligation applies”. The government has already agreed to remove labour market testing for many skilled worker occupations in free trade agreements with Korea and China, and has the option to do so in the ASEAN free trade agreement.

Labour market testing should mean that the employer has to produce evidence that there is a genuine skill shortage and no local workers are available. The employer-conducted labour market testing the government is proposing will not ensure this without independently verifiable testing.

Regardless, trade agreements set legally binding rules between countries which cannot be changed by domestic legislation unless the government renegotiates the agreement. Governments should always retain their ability to regulate in the public interest - especially when it comes to labour market policies, which need constant adjustment to ensure workers are not exploited. This can only be ensured by not including temporary labour arrangements in trade agreements.