Malcolm Turnbull's Decision to Axe 457 Working Visas To Affect Horse Racing Industry!

Written on the 28 April 2017

The racing industry has been rocked by the Australian Government's decision to abolish the Temporary Work Skilled Visa (Subclass 457) and replace it with the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) which will limit the number of skilled professions that can be filled by foreign workers including horse trainers and jockeys.

The 457 visa lets a skilled worker travel to Australia to work in their nominated occupation for their approved sponsor for up to four years.

Racing Australia sought an urgent meeting with the federal government - less than 24 hours after the Prime Minister announced abolishment of the 457 visa system in a bid to have track work riders exampt from its new four-year visa system.

The racing industry relies heavily on skilled staff from overseas due to a shortage of trained staff in Australia.

"With the skills shortage to ride horses in Australia, 70 per cent of our track riders are foreign," Lindsay Park co-trainer David Hayes said.

"Unfortunately, working with horses, particulary when they are worth millions of dollars, is a specialised skill and you can't take away the foreign workers because there is no one else to work the horses."

Hayes added: "There is a shortage of horse people in Australia who can handle thoroughbreds and that is why we have so many foreign workers. It costs more to have someone on a 457 visa, so we would much rather employ an Aussie but there are no Aussies to employ. I was disappointed when I heard the news."

Racing Australia chief executive Barry O'Farrell said: "Racing Australia is talking to the Federal Government and has been since the changes were announced yesterday and we will continue to highlight the significance of the industry not only to economic growth but the importance of these (foreign) staff to the sector."

"For years there have been critical skill shortages that racing industry employers have been unable to attract and retain qualified Australian staff to service the industry," O'Farrell said.

"As a result, they've been forced to look overseas for those critical, skilled roles from trackwork riders, to trainers, strappers, stable hands and stallion managers.

"Clearly the objective of putting in place better visa arrangements to attract skilled workers to this country within appropriate controls is of importance to everyone but, as I learnt in a previous occupation, the devil is in the detail.

"There is a demand problem in Australia. Not a lot of people want to get into the industry and necessarily get up for trackwork at four o'clock in the morning. That's one issue.

The second issue is making sure that the trainers, breeders and others have access to qualified people coming out of our TAFE's and other training systems. We need to be supporting that but that is not going to do anything in the short term or the medium term to solve the problem the industry has and this is an industry that brings more than $6 billion into the Australian economy." O'Farrell said.

Racing Australia continued discussions with the Department of Immigration last week hoping to eliminate consequences resulting from the changes to working visas that take effect on July 1st.

O'Farrell expects that when his board meets in five weeks, there will be a significant progress with no disruption to the thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.

(Photo: Trackwork staff, often sourced by overseas - Photo Credit: Jay Town)


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