The Federal Government is cracking down on the number of 457 skilled worker visas handed out to McDonald’s and other fast-food chains.
More than 500 skilled worker visas have been approved for fast-food outlets over the past four years.
Nearly 300 have worked at McDonald’s, almost 100 at KFC and more than 70 at Hungry Jacks. More than 300 individual stores employ foreign staff.
More than 100,000 Australians work for McDonald’s alone, while at least 13,000 are employed by Hungry Jacks.
The August 2011 census data showed that there were around 175 000 employees in “takeaway food services”.
There had been a fast-track visa process for the industry after Julia Gillard’s Labor Government approved the Fast Food Industry Labour Agreement in 2012, but the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has recently scrapped it.
“Australian workers, particularly young Australians, must be given priority,” Mr Dutton said.
“The Turnbull Government is committed to ensuring that career pathways are available for young Australians.
“Fast-track arrangements for the fast-food industry put in place by Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen in 2012 are not consistent with putting Australian workers first.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he commended Mr Dutton for taking action on the agreement, while Treasurer Scott Morrison took aim at the former Labor government on the issue.
Speaking to Sydney radio station 2GB, Mr Morrison said Labor had handed out the visas “like confetti”.
But Opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor said 457 workers could not take part in unskilled work.
Mr O’Connor has dismissed the announcement as a “complete lie”.
“The notion that 457s can take jobs of flipping burgers means either Peter Dutton is lying or they are misapplying the 457 visa,” he said.
“Secondly, there are thousands and thousands of workers, overseas workers, that are working in retail … They are working on student visas and working-holiday visas.”
But Mr Dutton conceded the decision mostly affected managers and people who would be involved in the running of the business.
“There is some concern about the actual role that people were fulfilling as opposed to the role they had signed up to,” he said.
“So there were a number of aspects to our consideration.”
Fast-food businesses can still apply through the regular 457 process.