Criticism and confusion inside government over 457 changes

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (r) with Malcolm Turnbull
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (right) with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announcing changes to the 457 program. (AAP) Source: AAP

Frank comments by an Immigration Department official highlight ongoing challenges prompted by this year's snap 457 reforms for both industry and government.

Internal frustration at the government's 457 reforms has emerged, with a senior Immigration Department official slamming the handling of the changes in front of dozens of migration professionals at a roundtable earlier this month.

Yet Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is adamant the right calls were made as part of the changes to "put Australian workers first into Australian jobs".

During a roadshow with the migration sector two weeks ago in Melbourne, the official described the 457 temporary visa program as a “moveable feast” and the mechanics around eligible occupations shifting between short and long-term lists a “dog’s breakfast”, according to a transcript obtained by SBS World News.

In a room of migration agents and lawyers, the official detailed new processes they had been forced to introduce to manage “the crap that we find ourselves in, to put things bluntly”.

In response to a question from a participant seeking more information over how eligible occupations were chosen, the official said: "I honestly can't answer. I don't know. Government policy."

The reforms, announced in April, cut more than 200 occupations from the national temporary worker visa program and introduced new restrictions on workers in some high value occupations, such as CEOs.

Australia's university sector has been one of the major opponents of the changes, and was not consulted as part of the policy reform process despite it being adversely impacted.

More changes to eligible occupations in the scheme are expected to be announced at the start of July.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton rejected the notion that a large number of changes so soon after the initial announcement would be evidence of mishandling of the policy adjustment.

Instead he highlighted his decision to scrap a labour agreement for fast food workers which made it easier for restaurant chains to bring in managers from overseas on 457s.

He also indicated restrictions around CEOs and university staff are likely to be relaxed.

"There’s work that we’ve done with the G8, and work around researchers and whatnot,” he said.

"If there are sensible changes to make, if people have got more evidence than what was available before when the decision was made, then we’re happy to discuss all of that.”

Although CEOs, universities and the senior department official have been critical of the policy change, the Immigration Minister's Office refuted the assertion that mistakes had been made in its design and implementation.

"The package was put together over a long period of time and followed significant work by the Department. These measures clean up Labor’s failed 457 policy," a statement to SBS World News reads.

Comments made at the roadshow also revealed that on April 18, the policy was "being signed off while the prime minister was actually making that announcement out the back".

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457 visa changes explained
457 visa changes explained