Budget 2018: Churches win exemption from paying for Aussie apprenticeships

Budget 2018: Religious groups have won a valuable exemption that means they can hire workers from overseas without paying into the Skilling Australians Fund.

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Religious organisations will be able to hire temporary migrants as bishops, ministers and religious assistants without paying into a fund designed to support 300,000 Australian apprenticeships.

The Turnbull government announced the Skilling Australians Fund in last year’s budget, but the legislation only passed the Senate on Tuesday afternoon. 

Employers who hire a migrant worker under a temporary skills visa or an employer-nominated visa will be forced to pay a “levy” into the apprenticeship fund.

But 2018 Budget papers reveal religious groups will be exempted.

Many churches in Australia hire foreign ministers, often from strongly religious Latin American countries, or Asian nations like the Philippines and South Korea.

Religious groups, like the fast food industry and the dairy industry, have access to a special labour agreement that allows groups to bring in foreign workers under special visa conditions. 

The groups accessing the visa stream come from a wide range of faiths and include the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Australia, the  Lutheran Church of Australia and the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. Buddhist groups are also on the list.

The scheme would have forced religious groups to pay up to $8,000 per year for a temporary worker, or up to $5,500 for a permanent visa holder.

“The Government will exempt religious organisations from paying the Skilling Australians Fund levy when they nominate a foreign skilled worker for a Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) or Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa,” the Budget papers read.

Published 8 May 2018 at 8:04pm, updated 8 May 2018 at 10:10pm
By James Elton-Pym