PM warns business to hire Aussies first

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Employers who don't properly search for Australian workers won't be able to bring in foreigners under the Turnbull government's new visa regime.

The government is scrapping the 457 visa program for temporary foreign workers and replacing it with new two-year and four-year visas.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned the labour market testing requirements for the new visas - including advertising jobs over six months - would be rigorously policed.

Employers who fail to meet requirements will be named and shamed.

"Where employers breach their obligations then they won't be able to get further people in under visas," Mr Turnbull told ABC radio on Wednesday.

The prime minister couldn't say how many more jobs would be available to Australians when the new scheme starts.

There are 95,000 workers on 457 visas at the moment - less than one per cent of the workforce.

"In terms of the absolute number of people, it will depend obviously on the demands of the economy and on skills shortages," Mr Turnbull said.

"What we want to make sure is where there are long and enduring skills shortages in Australia, that Australians are being trained to do that work."

Employers who hire foreign workers will have to contribute to a new training fund to support apprenticeships and traineeships.

Under the government's plan, the 457 visa will be replaced initially by a new temporary two-year visa designed to recruit the "best and the brightest".

A list of 650 occupations that now qualify for a temporary visa will be cut by 200 and applicants must have previous work experience.

A second four-year visa will require a high standard of English language and a criminal check.

The new two-year visa won't be a pathway to permanent residency, but anyone currently in Australia on a 457 visa won't be affected by the new arrangements.

The co-founder of successful technology company Atlassian, Mike Cannon-Brookes, says 457 visas are essential, telling The Australian anything that makes bridging the talent gap more difficult is bad for the country.

But Immigration Minister Peter Dutton questioned Atlassian's role in the the local market.

"Are they going into schools looking for young kids to go and work in jobs? Are they employing mature aged workers who have found themselves out of a job elsewhere?" he said on the Nine Network.

Australian Industry Group chief Innes Willox said the existing 457 visa system was opaque and open to abuse and he expected the new scheme to be more transparent.

But he expected some businesses would pay more under the changes.

Mr Turnbull rejected comparisons between his announcement and a move by US president Donald Trump to tighten foreign worker visas in a "buy American and hire American" executive order.

The prime minister said his government's changes to the visa program had been in the works "going back well over a year".

© AAP 2017

Image: Lukas Coch

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