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Labor unveils bill to crack down on 457 visa rorts




Joe Kelly


LABOR has introduced new legislation to crack down on 457 visa rorts, requiring employers to conduct labour market testing and keep documentation proving they are adhering to strict new guidelines.

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The Australian


News Limited

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The new bill enshrines in law the obligations of employers under the regime and toughens up the ability of the Department of Immigration to prosecute employers who do the wrong thing.

It also establishes a new "dob-in" hotline - allowing workers to report employers who are unfairly treating foreign workers - and extends the time-limit that a 457 visa holder can stay in Australia after their employment ends from 28 to 90 days.

Businesses will now be required to allocate 1 to 2 per cent of payroll for training purposes for every year of the visa sponsorship and will need to advertise locally before they are eligible to use the scheme.

New powers will be handed to the Fair Work Ombudsman, allowing it to monitor and investigate employer compliance with the scheme. Businesses will need to keep records to prove their adherence to the tougher guidelines.

Labor has campaigned strongly against employer abuses of the 457 visa program, with Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor claiming there were in excess of 10,000 rorts - a figure he later clarified as an estimate.

Introducing the bill this morning, Mr O'Connor warned that use of the 457 scheme had been growing, with the number of 457 visa holders growing from 68,400 in June 2010 to 106,680 last month.

"It concerns the government that, at a time when the labour market has been flattening and some sectors and regions have experienced lay-offs and increased unemployment, the Subclass 457 program has continued to grow," he said.

Mr O'Connor referred to Migration Council data showing that 15 per cent of employers had no difficulty finding labour locally but still sponsored employees under the scheme.

"Currently fines of more than $50,000 apply to employers breaching visa conditions, but under the existing program few official sanctions are given due to the limited power to enforce or monitor compliance," he said.

The bill introduces new "enforceable undertakings" for employers who breach their sponsorship obligations, with the minister able to publish the undertakings on the Immigration Department website.

Enforceable undertakings are promises that are legally enforceable in court and would be agreed to between the minister and a potential sponsor.

The government is hoping to pass its bill in the final two sitting weeks of parliament, with both houses scheduled to sit from June 17.

The campaign is also heavily backed by the union movement, with some considering linking their political donations to whether or not Labor continues to pursue the issue ahead of the September election.

Employer groups were angered by the move and have warned the government’s rhetoric on foreign workers risks damaging Australia’s international reputation.

Australian Mines and Metals Association head Steve Knott said it was “beyond disappointing” that legislation had been introduced.

He said there had been no consultation with industry and no consideration for the wider impacts the move would have on Australia’s business reputation.

"The world is watching how Australia is handling this anti-foreign worker political campaign and it is playing out for us very badly in the international business community,” he said.

"We need to question whether the ALP is opening the door for other nations to follow its lead and close the opportunities for Australian people to work and gain experience overseas.

"The Gillard government needs to begin to accord the Australian community more respect, stop insulting the public’s intelligence, and stop demonising 457 workers and their employers."


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