Our Thoughts On The 457 Decision

As a society, we often forget that we have been fortunate enough to be born in a period with the best global living conditions in history. We can attribute a large part of this to technology and innovation, which has provided us with the means for our economies to compete on a global scale. It is a man-made miracle that we can now communicate, share data, create new things, and impact lives across timezones and geographical barriers in real-time.

It is thus with great disdain that I started my Tuesday learning about the Turnbull Government’s decision to abolish and replace the 457 visa scheme. Despite the blessings which technology-enabled globalisation has provided, we are beginning to slowly regress into isolationist and protectionist ideologies which history has shown to be socially and economically destructive.

Under the newly proposed scheme, I would not have been able to get a visa to work in Australia. Having worked at YBF for over 4 years, I’d like to believe that I’ve worked hard to make positive contributions to the Australian economy by directly creating Australian jobs (having employed numerous Australians) and by growing other Australian businesses by providing fundraising guidance and mentorship. I am also helping a publicly funded Australian research institution to commercialise their technology and which will create Australian jobs by mentoring at CSIRO.

My colleague Sahand would also not have qualified for the new visa. Sahand has contributed tremendously to the Australian economy by leading the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Accelerator with the New Zealand government. Over the last 2 years, he has helped to bring New Zealand businesses into Melbourne which have since created a significant amount of jobs for local Australians. He has also helped launch various communities to empower, educate, and equip Australians with industry specific skills, most notably with the Australian FinTech community.

It is extremely disheartening that YBF will no longer be able to access young and capable talent like those who have historically walked through our doors. Talented foreign graduates can no longer be employed alongside their Australian counterparts merely because of their lack of the requisite 2-year work experience requirement.

This also presents a dire problem for Australia’s science and research sectors. The inability to hire talented PhD students from around the globe will stymie Australia’s research capabilities. Under the new visa scheme, Australia would not have been able to retain Nobel-prize winning astrophysicist Peter Schmidt, who is now vice-chancellor of the Australian National University.

It has also become even more difficult to incentivise successful executives to move to Australia. Under the new scheme, CEOs will only be eligible for a short-term 2 -year visa with one opportunity for renewal, and no pathway to permanent residency. Without the ability to provide the security of a long-term future in Australia, why would these executives choose to live in Australia over other more welcoming countries? (edit 14 Nov 2017: since writing this, the government has transitioned CEOs to the 4-year visa with pathway to permanent residency. We are fortunate to have our new CEO join us because of this visa. While a small positive step forward, this does not change our thoughts on the significant issues mentioned in this article). 

We believe in diversity – not just in gender but also in race and culture. The discontinuation of the 457 visa in its current form will significantly prejudice our ability to build a culturally and experientially diverse team for the long term.

To be clear – we fully support, and have historically worked immensely hard, to create Australian jobs. We have hired numerous Australians to fill roles within our various organisations and the number of Australians in our team outnumbers our foreign team members. However, the best talent comes from a global, and not local, pool and there are outliers who hail from different countries. It is such a waste that Australia will now lose these talented individuals to other countries.

Our government often turns to Silicon Valley as an example of leadership in technology. It is therefore surprising that they have turned a blind eye to the fact that the Silicon Valley we know today would not have existed without the contribution of immigrants like Satya Nadella, Patrick Collison, Sergey Brin, and Elon Musk who have helped to create some of the world’s largest companies.

The federal government has done some great things for the Australian innovation economy, such as the establishment of the National Innovation and Science Agenda. However, the abolition of the 457 Visa is a step backwards. If we are serious about creating an innovation economy, let us not ignore the assets that time has shown to be crucial in fostering innovation and technology.

– Jason Lim, General Manager