Google hits out at 457 changes

James Riley
Editorial Director

Google has taken aim at the Australian government’s changes to the skilled migration visas, with the tech giant saying it has been forced to change its local recruitment plans.

The reveal was made in Google’s submission to the government’s public consultation on its upcoming Digital Economy Strategy. Submissions closed late last year and were recently made public, with the strategy set to be launched in the first half of this year.

Google’s submission largely echoes one of the biggest issues the local tech and startup sector has been lobbying the government on recently, and one of the core focuses of the recent StartupAUS Crossroads 2017 report.

Google: Changes to the 457 visa forced it to revise its recruitment plans.

Earlier last year, the federal government made the shock announcement that it would be scrapping the popular 457 visa scheme, to be replaced by a new skilled visa that had fewer jobs and no pathway to permanent residency.

Google has now said that these changes forced it to “revise its Australian recruitment plans”. The company said that it employs more than 1300 people in Australia, and while the majority of these workers are Australian citizens, “the skills they require to adapt in a period of rapid technological change often come from overseas”.

“The digital technology skills Google employees bring from overseas or develop in Australia are transferred to workers in the Australian businesses Google employees partner with when developing technology solutions in areas as diverse as cloud computing and digital advertising,” Google said in its submission.

“As a result of the government’s changes to Australia’s skilled migration visa system in 2017, Google Australia has had to revise its Australian recruitment plans. Business-critical skills have been excluded from the longer term visa categories that are necessary to attract workers with the knowledge and experience required to train younger Australian employees.

“When Google brings a new worker to Australia, whether they be Australian or foreign born, they bring knowledge and skills that are necessary for us to develop the skills of locally-recruited Australian workers and maintain a globally competitive Australian workforce.”

The company pointed specifically to product managers, user experience specialists and technical solutions, and systems administrators as examples of this.

Google’s submission said Australia’s current skilled visa scheme doesn’t adequately recognise the value of proprietary knowledge and “pigeon-holes emerging roles in rapidly changing businesses into existing ANZSCO skill categories”.

It also argued that it does not provide the long-term stability needed to attract people from overseas, a key concern recently put forward by StartupAUS in its annual report.

“Many workers with the skills Australia needs to facilitate its economic transformation have families. Uprooting a family to move across the world is a significant decision, and although Australia offers a high standard of living, the nation’s current visa scheme does not provide the stability required for senior workers with families and children if their roles falls into a short-term skills category,” the submission said.

“This makes it difficult to recruit workers and means roles that are necessary for Google’s business operations are harder to place in Australia compared to other centres across the region. The jobs of the future in Australia are under threat unless continued access to highly-skilled workers can be maintained.”

Google declined to outline what exact revisions it has made to its Australian recruitment strategy following the visa changes.

Reforms to the skilled visas was one of the main recommendations to government featured in the StartupAUS Crossroads report. It said that a lack of talent and inability to attract overseas workers is the “single biggest factor holding Australian startups back”, and urged the government to expand the eligible occupations for worker visas and include more pathways to permanent residency.

In its submission, Google also argued for the federal government to make tech-friendly reforms to its copyright system. It is pushing for an extension of the safe harbour provision to digital services and platforms, and the introduction of a fair use rule.

“Much of the technology that underpins the development of Australia’s economy depends on the transfer of information over networks and the use of information, in which copyright may subsist,” the submission said.

“That means digital technology and information networks are deeply affected by copyright law. We have established that the use and development of digital technology will be fundamental to Australia’s economic future. In this context, copyright law reform will be a key consideration in optimising Australia’s economic policy.”

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