Visa Programme for Skilled Workers

Summary prepared by Jarmila Zaricka (Board Member, German Australian Business Council):

In April 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the abolition of the temporary foreign skilled worker scheme (referred to as ‘457’) that was introduced in 1996.

The ‘457’ visa programme allowed skilled foreigners to work in Australia for up to four years.

Under this programme, 96,000 foreigners of the country’s 12 million labour force work in Australia.

The majority of the workers are from India, Great Britain and China – in the IT, scientific and hospitality sectors.

The motivation for abolishing the ‘457’ visa programme has been expressed as the aim to give priority to Australian workers for Australian jobs.

Australia’s unemployment rate sits today at 5.9%. The OECD average represents 6.2%.

The ‘457’ visa programme is foreseen to be replaced with new visas specifically targeting skills shortages outside the main cities. In addition, under the planned new scheme, English language requirements for migrants would be boosted. Requirements for previous work experience would also be introduced. Details are yet to be revealed.

Current holders of ‘457’ visas would be unaffected by the changes and could continue to work in Australia under the conditions of that visa.

References:

https://www.ft.com/content/05cfee60-23f2-11e7-a34a-538b4cb30025?mhq5j=e1

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/18/turnbull-government-scraps-visas-for-skilled-foreigners-in-bid-to-put-australians-first.html

Siemens High Voltage Factory Tour in Berlin on 13th of October 2016

“Same, same but not the same”

While last year a group of members and friends of the German Australian Business Council joined a tour through the Siemens Medium Voltage factory, this year was all about High Voltage.
The tour took part on the 13th of October 2016 in the “Siemens Schaltwerk Berlin”, which is located in the Berlin district of Siemensstadt, were Siemens was once founded. This location is the biggest Siemens production location in Germany. After successful registration at the front entrance everyone was warmly welcomed in the information centre by the German Australian Business Council board members Simone Wienhausen and Sabine Pittrof.
After a short small talk the tour guide invited everyone into a separate room, where he gave a presentation about the history of Siemens and its importance for the whole Siemens group. He focused on the most important inventions and the different fields in which Siemens is currently operating. He proceeded to explain the need for different levels of current as well as the products produced in Berlin and their use within Medium and High voltage.
The tour started with an introduction to the Siemens products in the show room, where our tour guide already had to answer a lot questions regarding the products shown such as Vacuum interrupters, surge arresters and switching devices starting from vacuum circuit breaker to the high voltage gas insulated switching device.
On the way to the High Voltage Factory a highly appreciated shortcut was taken through the Medium Voltage Factory where some of the products were explained. The tour was continued through the High Voltage Training Centre for GIS (Gas Insulated Switchgear) where we had the chance to get close to one of the very big devices. After visiting the part of the factory where the housing of the High Voltage products are produced our guide took the group to the assembly lines, where the large switchgear is put together and tested. For most, one the highlights was one part of the High Voltage test lab ( called “Parabelhalle”) with its massive test equipment which are up to 20 meters high.
We wish to gratefully acknowledge that the tour was made possible by Siemens Schaltwerk and are looking forward to the next tour.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Budget

This week was budget week in Australia. The annual speech in Canberra’s Parliament by the treasurer is part of the Australian political scene and the lead up to the big day is everywhere. Newspapers and TV discuss extensively the options open to the Treasurer and attempt to double guess the outcome. Afterwards all the newspapers devote column inches and TV hours to discuss the effects on ordinary Australians. There’s really nothing like it in the German political system.

So what happened this year? The general consensus is that the budget was „boring“. An election might be called soon (Australia does not have a fixed parliamentary term and so an election can be called at the whim of the governing party) and it is clear that the ruling Liberal Party did not want to be too controversial – unlike in 2014. Australia is facing two major challenges – as the Financial Times noted – the fall in commodity prices and lacklustre growth. Mr. Hockey, the Treasurer, introduced a budget in which taxes are not raised (and indeed should fall for small businesses) and any new expenditure will be met by redirecting existing funds. The Australian Stock Market reacted positively.

The government is currently forecasting four more years of deficits. Currently it is forecast to be AUD 41.1 Bn to AUD 35.1 Bn in the fiscal year 2015-16 and then fall to AUD 25.8 Bn in the following year (about 1.3% of GDP – lower than the EU’s Maastricht Criterium).

For foreign companies, the impact of the budget is likely to be minimal. Australian will start levying GST (equivalent to VAT/USt) on digital services products, such as videos or e-books, coming into the country. This has been termed the „Netflix“ tax, but will also affect German and European companies, as well as US ones. There is also a commitment to stop companies shifting profits out of Australia to avoid payment of local taxes. This commitment is shared also by the German government.

The Australian Taxation Office will also take over review of foreign investment of real estate in the country. The Treasurer emphasised that Australia was looking for foreign investment of the right sort. In the past few weeks, the newspapers have carried stories about purchase of real estate by non-residents, and the measures are intended to strengthen the goverment’s hand.

On the other hand, European backpackers will lose their tax-free entitlement and will have to pay tax on all of their earnings whilst working and travelling around the country. There is some controversy as to the level of additional revenue that this will bring the government, but it has already lead to some controversy, as reported on the BBC and the ABC.

Full details of the budget can be found at the government’s website here.

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Free Trade with Australia? Politico’s Ryan Heath has noted in today’s insider news from Brussels that a free trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand is being bumped up the priority list in the European Commission. This is definitely good news for Australian companies trading in Europe and those companies interested in doing business “down under”. Hopefully the agreement won’t get bogged down in the same discussions as the Canadian CETA agreement and the TTIP agreement with the US.

Australian Defence Minister visitng German Shipyards

Kevin Andrews, the defence minister in Australia, is currently in Germany and will be visiting ThyssenKrupp’s marine systems shipyards on Thursday 23rd April, as reported in the Australian. ThyssenKrupp together with Siemens is hoping to win a potentially lucrative contract to replace Australia’s aging Collins class submarines.

Wikipedia has a detailed article on the issues behind the submarines and the current negotiations here.

Waste Management Down Under

A recent report on Germany Trade and Invest website discusses the issues on refuse management in Australia. The OECD states that Australia is the seventh largest producer of refuse/trash per head of population. Further details can be found in German on GTAI’s website here.