What could scrapping the 457 visa mean for the construction industry?

We examine new reforms to the temporary work (skilled) visa and look at possible implications for the Australian construction and building sector…
There’s been a mixed response to government plans to scrap the 457 visa program for skilled migrants.
The Australian government will replace the 457 scheme with Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visas. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says reforms will target areas with critical skills shortages, while prioritising Australian workers.
Short term visas will be issued for a maximum of two years, but cannot be transferred into residency. Medium term visas will be valid for up to four years, which is the same as the current 457.
There will now be compulsory criminal checks and stricter english language requirements. Eligible candidates will also need two years of industry specific work experience under their belts before they apply for the new scheme.
The government has wasted no time implementing the changes, after making the announcement in April this year and nominating March 2018 as the completion date. Current 457 visa applicants and holders won’t be impacted by the reforms.
The list of suitable occupations will be pruned down to 435 jobs – marking a significant reduction from the current 651 jobs. Restrictions will apply to 59 occupations and this will include limiting certain jobs to regional areas only.  

What implications could this have for the construction industry?

The Department of Immigration last year granted 5618 visas in the construction sector, compared to 548 visas in the real estate and rental industries.
There’s some concern that businesses have been taking advantage of the 457 visa scheme to import thousands of tradespeople, when Australians could do the job. This reform could address that.
Master Builders Australia pledges to work with the government to make sure the TSS visa responds to industry needs.
“We welcome the government’s announcement of a new temporary skill shortage visa to allow employers to meet genuine skills shortages while retaining appropriate safeguards for Australian jobs,” Master builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said.
“However, access to foreign workers to fill immediate skills gaps on projects where locals cannot or will not meet demand for skilled labour is important to the productivity of the building and construction industry,” Ms Wawn said.
There’s concern that reforms will elevate the time and costs associated with recruiting skilled workers, while preventing businesses from hiring the most qualified candidates. The 457 visa has previously been praised for filling significant skills shortages in the construction industry,
Removed construction industry categories under the new scheme include Conveyancers, Electronic Engineering Technicians, Building and Engineering Technicians, Construction Estimators, Drillers, Electronics Engineers and Safety Inspectors.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has released a complete list of affected occupations.