Fight to Keep 457 Visas

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I would like to draw your attention to the adverse impact the scrapping of the 457 Visa program will have on the Queensland thoroughbred breeding industry.

The TBQA is currently working with our federal body, the TBA, to highlight an impending crisis for breeding and racing if the recently announced changes to the Visa program are implemented.

The category of ‘Horse Trainer’ has been abolished. This previously allowed for highly trained and experienced staff to be recruited from overseas as managers. This affects not just 'Horse Trainers' as we know them, but virtually all horse people in the industry - strappers, foreman, stud staff, track riders etc.

‘Horse Breeder’ remains on the list, however under the changes staff will only be eligible for a two year visa and will be unable to apply for permanent residency. This is going to discourage the best and brightest people from around the world from taking up senior management positions in Australia.

A large number of Thoroughbred Breeders Queensland Association members have contacted me with fears this could spell the end of their business.

Stud farm owners and racehorse trainers find it almost impossible to find sufficient numbers of skilled, experienced local people to work on farms, in racing stables or as track work riders due to the nature of the work involved, long hours and early starts, and relatively low pay rates. It holds little attraction for many young people unless they have a love of the horse.

Sufficient numbers of such workers are simply not available locally, and many stud farms and trainers have reported to us they often receive few applications for good jobs despite extensive Australia-wide advertising. There is certainly no preference for foreign workers if skilled Australians with the right backgrounds are available.

In order to maintain the necessary staffing levels, thoroughbred studs and many racehorse trainers have come to rely on attracting experienced, expert horse people from overseas to fill available positions.

Valuable thoroughbreds, some worth millions of dollars, can only be entrusted to the care of experienced horse people and the ability of stud farms and trainers to source international workers has been vital in reaching and maintaining high standards in the Queensland thoroughbred industry.

The possibility of qualifying for permanent residency is a major draw card for many of these employees, therefore the proposed changes to two year visas with no permanent residency will severely limit our ability to ‘poach’ highly skilled staff from overseas.

These foreign workers are then often able to help train Australian staff, so we can use their experience to our advantage by improving local skills.

I believe there is the possibility that these changes will again be reviewed in July, and the TBQA and TBA have approached the relevant Federal ministers asking them to reinstate ‘Horse Trainer’ on the list of approved occupations, to extend the two year visas, and to allow application for permanent residency for these talented horse people.

It's now time that individuals take action. We're asking you to right to your Federal Member as soon as possible to outline your concerns about these changes and the impacts they will have, otherwise we will feel the devastating effects of this Australia-wide almost immediately, and a thriving industry could be brought to its knees.