Doctor says regional health care reliant on 457 visa scheme

A POLL of 600 voters in Central Queensland has revealed 62% are opposed to the 457 visa scheme and would support the Federal government's move to restrict the scheme.

But a leading Gladstone health professional has warned the health care system in regional areas would struggle to survive without the scheme.

The 457 visa allows skilled workers from outside Australia to work in the country on a temporary basis.

The poll was commissioned by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) as part of a campaign aiming to maximise local employment.

Over 90% of those polled rejected claims opposition to the 457 scheme was motivated by racism.

Gladstone GP Super clinic director John Bird said he was not surprised by the poll results.

But Dr Bird said without the 457 visa scheme, the health care system would be in serious trouble.

"Sixty-two percent opposition to the visa scheme wouldn't surprise me if it was done amongst industry workers who feel their jobs are threatened," Dr Bird said.

"But I think people need to be aware of where these people are actually working."

Dr Bird said a majority of 457 visa holders are employed in the medical field. He said they were vital for upholding the health system, especially in rural areas.

Of the 60 general practitioners in town, Dr Bird said less than 15 had studied in Australia.

"A significant portion of doctors who have come to work in the region have come on the basis of a 457," he said.

Dr Bird said the near future would bring an increase in the number of Australian medical graduates.

"But in the meantime, it's absolutely critical we have the 457 because they will be training Australian graduates up to get them into regional areas."

Dr Jalal Agha is a general practitioner at the Superclinic and holder of a 457 visa.

He graduated from the Baghdad College of Medicine in Iraq in 1989 and has been working in the Gladstone Region since late last year.

Dr Agha said there was a broad spectrum of people on the 457 visa with different skills.

"I think every country needs to bring foreign workers in, according to the demand," he said.

CFMEU Queensland Secretary Michael Ravbar said people in the regions know better than most the impact of allowing employers to simply import temporary workers from overseas.

Successful 457 Visa Applications 2012-2013, listed by industry:

  • Construction 16.8 %
  • Health Care and Social Assistance 12.2%
  • Mining 11.7%
  • Accommodation and Food Services 11.1%