Just one in 200 companies that sponsor skilled foreign workers has been punished for misusing the 457 visa scheme this financial year.
The low figures came as Immigration Department officials confirmed they had never provided advice to minister Brendan O’Connor that 457 visas had been rorted about 10,000 times.
Migration and visa policy division official Kruno Kukoc told a Senate estimates committee on Monday that 170 sponsors had been formally sanctioned in the 10 months to April – up from 93 in the same period last year. Given there were 29,100 active sponsors, this equated to a sanction rate of 0.58 per cent on the latest figures.
Punishments can include a ban on sponsoring foreign workers and a risk of fines.
The Gillard government has drawn fire from business groups and the opposition over the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding its campaign to tighten the 457 visa program rules.
Department of Immigration and Citizenship secretary Martin Bowles confirmed the department gave no specific advice to Mr O’Connor to the effect that the scheme might have been used illegitimately more than 10,000 times.
”The minister’s already put on the public record he made that assessment after reading a range of reporting,” he said.
Mr O’Connor gave the ”estimate” in a radio interview in April.
Pressed on whether the department had found systemic problems, Mr Bowles said there were examples of industries and regions in which strong growth in 457 visa use came at the same time as a softening in the local labour market.
”Nothing’s ever simple,” he said.
The 457 temporary visa program allows an employer to hire a foreign worker if an appropriately skilled Australian cannot be found.
The department is still working on an agreement with the Fair Work Ombudsman on how they will work together to investigate 457 visa misuse from July 1.
Courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald
We’re not entirely sure whats going on here between the Minister and his department but it appears Brendan O’Connor’s imagination (goaded by the various unions with the most to lose) has run amok and his hyperbole may yet come back to haunt him!