On Friday Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Bowen announced reforms to the Employer Nomination Scheme and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme, replacing the current six permanent employer-sponsored visas with two new visas.
It will also consolidate the existing three sponsored occupation lists - subclass 457, employer nomination, and state and territory sponsored general skilled migration lists — into one list.
"These reforms will make it easier for businesses and potential migrants to navigate the permanent employer-sponsored visa program, while ensuring the integrity of our visa system," Bowen said.
He said the government would establish a fast-tracked pathway from the temporary skilled subclass 457 visa to permanent residence under the employer-sponsored visa program, allowing skilled migrants to settle and work in regional and metropolitan Australia.
"Skilled migrants deliver major benefits to the Australian economy in terms of contributing to economic growth and offsetting the impacts of an ageing population.
"We know these workers can do the job and are ready to make a commitment to Australia, so it makes sense to streamline their pathway to permanent residence."
Permanent employer-sponsored visa places currently account for 39% of the total skilled migration program for 2011-12, including 16,000 places through RSMS.
In Western Australia, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy has estimated the resources sector in the state would need 33,000 workers - including engineers, metallurgists and tradespeople -over the next few years while the WA state government predicted the state would be short 76,000 workers by 2015.
The picture is also bleak in Queensland, with estimates around 40,000 workers would be needed for various resource projects with demand to peak in 2014.
The visa reforms will start on July 1.