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Tuesday, 18 April 2017
Transcript

Interview with Nick McCallum, 3AW Drive

Subjects: Putting Australian Workers First – abolition of 457 Visas; Tony Abbott.

E&EO…………………………………………………………………………………………..

NICK MCCALLUM:

We’re joined now by the Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton. Mr Dutton, thanks for your time.

PETER DUTTON:

My pleasure Nick.

NICK MCCALLUM:

This appears to be a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction. It appears to have come out of the blue, your changes to the 457 Visas.

PETER DUTTON:

I’m not sure that’s the case. People that have been following this debate for some time, if they’ve been watching Question Time or watching statements that I’ve made over a long period of time now, I’ve expressed a lot of concern about the 457 Visa programme and in abolishing it today, our announcement really is about making sure that we can put Australian workers into Australian jobs and making sure that we  don’t see a repeat of the mistakes made, for example – and I pointed this out only a few weeks ago – the agreements that were done with companies like McDonald’s or KFC or Hungry Jacks and others that essentially prioritised foreign workers ahead of local young workers. That was a deal done when Mr Shorten was in government and it was a mess that needed to be cleaned up. So we’ve been speaking about this for a while, problems with the 457 programme.

So the announcement today really builds on that and there are significant changes that we’ve made about requiring labour market testing; so employers need to advertise for jobs, we’ve put in place relevant work experience – which wasn’t there before – we’ve tightened up the English language requirements. So, there are a number of things that we’ve done which have really tightened it up    – all in the effort to try and get Australian kids and Australians in general into jobs – that should be the priority of any government, certainly the priority of this one.

NICK MCCALLUM:

Okay. A couple of reactions that I want your reaction to. First of all, we’ve been speaking to the VFF, the Victorian Farmers association…Farmers Federation. They’re a little annoyed that they weren’t consulted or the main farmers’ body wasn’t consulted because there are specific things they need to get foreigners for and no one has spoken to them about it, so, they have no idea whether this affects them today or not.

PETER DUTTON:

Well Nick, we’ll conduct that consultation on top of the consultation we’ve already conducted with some key groups, so we’ll expand that out now that the decision’s been made and been announced. We’ll work with them, but we had a particular focus on helping regional areas.

It is the case, and the Government’s not going to apologise for this, if you’ve got unemployment, youth unemployment in a regional area of 17 or 18 per cent, we want those kids in work before we bring foreigners into that area. That’s pure and simple and if the Australian won’t fill the job, then we have to look at bringing a foreign worker in in that case. So, if the regional farmer or restaurant or tourism facility, whatever it might be, says that they’ve advertised, they just cannot get an Australian worker to fill that job and the business needs to fill that job, well we can work with those regional areas, but the default position of this Government is that we do want Australian workers in Australian jobs. We’re happy to work through all of the detail with whichever organisation it might be, but the starting point for us is that we do want to get Australians into Australian jobs.

NICK MCCALLUM:

Minister, One Nation, you would’ve read, no doubt, that Pauline Hanson has tweeted and basically said, once again, the Government is taking up one of our policies.

PETER DUTTON:

Well, the One Nation’s tweeted; I see the Greens have tweeted as well. People can tweet and carry on all they like…

NICK MCCALLUM:

…I suppose the question is; is this a sop to the One Nation to try and get their voters?

PETER DUTTON:

Not at all. I think it’s the reality, as we’ve pointed out on a number of occasions. The 457 programme really got out of control when Labor was last in government. There were 110,000 people that went onto 457…

NICK MCCALLUM:

…but why has it then taken so long? That’s, what, four years now? Why has it taken so long to tighten it all up?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, we’ve tightened up in a number of ways, but in the end we’ve made the decision that additional changes that we wanted to make didn’t make it worthwhile keeping the existing programme, that we were better off to scrap the existing programme because frankly the brand was so tarnished that we were better-off to scrap the programme and bring in something with much tighter processes in place to make sure that local advertising was done, so that there was an assurance that if an Australian worker was able to fill the job, we could have that worker fill the job.

There were a number of problems that we inherited and we’ve cut out 200-odd occupations off the skills list that Labor presided over. Labor had 651 skill occupations on the list and so it does take time to work through and cut out well over 200.

We’ve taken our time to do that, we’ve thought through the process, but in the end, our desire is pure and simple: if there is an Australian job we want an Australian worker into that job.

NICK MCCALLUM:

And briefly, just to wind up Minister, would you prefer the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott just basically shut up? He’s making your job and the whole Government’s job a lot harder at the moment….

PETER DUTTON:

Oh Nick, I’m just not going to comment on political day-to-day events. I think Tony Abbott’s a respected former Prime Minister. He’s got the right to make a contribution. I think what he would point out today, as all of us would point out, is that we have cleaned up a significant mess. There is a lot more that we’re going to announce in the Immigration portfolio – it comes off the back of stopping boats and stopping drownings at sea, getting every child out of detention – so there’s a lot that we’ve done in this portfolio that Tony and many other Australians would support very ly and I’m sure he’ll speak in favour of the announcements that we’ve made today.

So in terms of the commentary and the analysis, I’ll leave that up to experts like yourself, but I’m better-off to stick to my knitting, which is advice I’ve provided to others in the past. So that’s probably the best I can provide to you.

NICK MCCALLUM:

I know you don’t believe that for a second, but thank you very much indeed for your time. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

PETER DUTTON:

Good to be with you, Nick. Thanks mate.