AP Photo/Tim Wimborne, Pool
Sydney - Australia will abolish a temporary work visa that has been popular with foreigners and replace it with a visa requiring better English-language and work skills, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Monday.

Turnbull has rejected suggestions that the visa policy change was in response to the country's far-right wing political parties, such as One Nation, demanding more nationalistic policies.

But in a Facebook announcement Turnbull said: “Our reforms will have a simple focus: Australian jobs and Australian values.”

Turnbull said the visa change would attract better skilled workers and see Australians employed over cheap foreign workers brought in under the old 457 visa programme.

“We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains - Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs,” he said. “We’ll no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians.”

Controversy

The 457 visa was designed to fill Australia’s skills shortage and allow holders to bring members of their family to Australia on 457 secondary visa. But the 457 visa has been mired in controversy with allegations the programme was being misused by employers to import workers on the cheap, not to fill genuine skill shortage.

“We are bringing the 457 visa class to an end. It’s lost its credibility,” Turnbull said at a press conference in Canberra.

Anyone now in Australia on a 457 visa will not be affected by the new arrangements.

The 457 visa, now used by about 95 000 foreign workers, will be replaced by a new temporary visa and the list of occupations that qualify for a visa will be reduced from more than 200.

The new visa will be limited to a two-year period and a second four-year visa will require a higher standard of English language.

From 1901 to around 1973, Australia restricted non-white immigration under a White Australia policy which required an English language test.