Visa change risks local research
Medical research could already be suffering under Australia’s new visa laws.
Last month’s changes to 457 visas saw hundreds of jobs cut from the list of eligible occupations, and hundreds more placed on a restricted list that offers a two-year visa instead of four, and removes the chance at permanent residency.
Tony Cunningham, president of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes says; “Those people who come here are so valuable that we want to keep them”.
“An example of that would be Ian Frazer who came from Scotland and invented the papilloma virus vaccine,” he said.
“We run the risk of people leaving after two years and leaving us in the lurch in the middle of excellent funded research projects.”
HIV researcher Sarah Palmer has been working in Australia for the last five years.
She told SBS reporters that the two-year restriction would have prevented her from moving if it was in place when she first came to Australia.
“For my sort of research it would not be possible to come for two years and really to set up the full research plan,” Dr Palmer said.
“It would definitely make me think twice about coming to Australia, that is true, in fact I probably would not have come."
Dr Palmer does not know what will happen when her 457 visa runs out in 2020.
The “life scientist” category her visa is under has now been scrapped.
“She's an example of the sort of person that we need to fill niches in Australia which cannot be filled by Australian scientists,” Mr Cunningham said.
The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes has been in communication with the Department of Immigration.
“The major problem for us is really about three or four occupations which are not on the medium-term list,” Mr Cunningham said.
“They are life scientist and bio-statistician and a couple of others like biotechnologist.
“It can be done very easily, we just simply put these occupations back on the list or alternatively we do what some countries have done and have a special science visa.”
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has suggested there may be room for exemptions.
“Where people are highly skilled, particularly if they're being employed in medical research institutes or tertiary hospitals or university research projects etc, in many cases they won't be affected by the changes that we've made,” Mr Dutton told reporters in Brisbane.
Mr Dutton said a review of the government's occupation lists is scheduled for July.
“We'll continue to work with employers because there is an important place for some people to come in on that visa stream but I want the default position to be Australian workers to fill those jobs,” he said.