“There is no benefit to the current trend”: ACTU President Ged Kearney. Photo: Steven SiewertAustralia is creating a “two-tier system”, with many international workers having fewer rights than others in the workforce, an ACTU submission to the senate inquiry into temporary visas warns.

Australian unions are pushing for a cut in the swelling number of overseas workers on temporary visas and a return to predominantly permanent migration to curb exploitation and unemployment.

The submission by the Australian Council of Trade Unions calls for a re-evaluation of the “largely uncapped temporary visa system”, which, if allowed to continue, would see the number of overseas workers on temporary visas grow from 1.2 million to 2 million by 2020.

It argues that working holiday visas should be capped to allow more young Australians to enter the workforce.

The union said that last year, an extra 40,000 people became unemployed when the number of temporary visa holders increased by 45,000.

More than 160,000 young international workers are currently on working holiday 417 visas at the same time that 290,000 people aged 15 to 24 are unemployed.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said Australia has a “proud history of permanent migration which has contributed significantly to the great multicultural nation we are today”.

“There is no benefit to the current trend, where we rely on international workers to fill alleged gaps in skills. We must create opportunities through investment and training to combat unemployment,” she said.

“We need to focus on creating job opportunities for Australians, we must ensure our permanent migration system is robust and we must limit the use of temporary visas to reflect genuine skills shortages.”

The assistant minister for immigration and border protection, Senator Michaelia​ Cash, has criticised the senate inquiry as being “politically motivated by those who are fundamentally opposed to the 457 skilled migration program”.

The federal government released its response to an independent inquiry into the integrity of the 457 program, chaired by John Azarias​, a week before the Senate inquiry was launched last month.

Ms Cash has said the earlier inquiry had been comprehensive and the government has announced it will follow recommendations to strengthen the integrity of the 457 visa program.

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