Plans for 'ineffective' labour market testing unclear

THE Abbott government will move to better enforce the rules surrounding the 457 skilled visa program, but will not act on a key recommendation to abolish employer-driven "labour market testing" from the program.

While the review found no evidence of union-backed claims of widespread rorting of the program, the government response released on Wednesday outlined plans for stronger enforcement.

Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash said the government would focus on targeting employers who misused the program, more transparency and reducing the regulatory burden on mainly big businesses that hired through the visa program.

But in its official response, the government only "noted" a recommendation that employer-conducted labour market testing was "ineffective" in Australia and should be abolished.

The government is unlikely to act on the labour market testing recommendation, despite taking up most of the other recommendations.

Senator Cash said a new penalty would also make it unlawful for sponsors to be paid in return for sponsoring 457 workers. "Further, we will proactively prosecute and name and shame offenders exploiting overseas workers and misusing the program," she said.

Sen Cash said the government would also "streamline" the regulation on 457 visas, including replacing training benchmarks for 457 workers, loosening English language requirements and directing training funds from 457 sponsors to train Australians in jobs experiencing skills shortages.

But Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the government's plans to "water-down" English language requirements could risk worker safety and leave 457 visa holders at risk from exploitation.

Mr Marles also said he was concerned by the government's "silence" on labour market testing.