School Fee Charges For Children Of 457 Visa Holders Not Finalised, WA Govt Says

Labor says it is "staggering" the West Australia Government still has not finalised details of its plan to charge a fee to some foreign workers whose children attend public schools, just months before it comes into force.

ABC News, by Jacob Kagi, 23 October 2014

The 457 visa grants temporary residency to skilled workers and their families, who are sponsored by an employee to fill a vacancy for which a suitable local candidate cannot be found.

As part of last year's state budget, the Government revealed plans to charge a fee to 457 visa holders whose children attend a state school.

That plan has since been watered down after a considerable backlash to the plan, but those families will still be charged $4,000 annually from next year.

The Government said last September there would be "provisions for hardship to take into account exceptional circumstances and to pay by instalments".

But Education Minister Peter Collier confirmed in Parliament the Government had not yet finalised eligibility requirements for those provisions, or what the concessions to those suffering "exceptional circumstances" would be.

"I want to make sure that we make it as fair across the board in regards to 457 visa holders and that's why it's not quite as easy as it may appear," he said.

"But I would anticipate very shortly I'll have the provisions.

"It has taken longer than I would have preferred but we are working on it."

As of last year, there were around 4,000 children of 457 visa holders attending public schools in the state.

Labor's education spokeswoman Sue Ellery said the uncertainty was leaving school principals in an unenviable position, while giving parents no time to plan.

"Families are approaching school principals now and asking what the arrangements are, and what the hardship measures are, and it's beyond me [as to why] it's taken more than a year and we still don't have those provisions," she said.

"They don't know and the principals can't tell them what the hardship provisions are.

"The Government needs, as a matter of urgency, to sign off on those hardship guidelines, demonstrate that they've actually consulted with the people concerned so the guidelines will actually be workable, and provide them immediately to principals."

Ms Ellery said she hoped low-income families would be exempted from the plan.

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