Immigration minister Brendan O’Connor has claimed more than 10,000 people are scamming the 457 visas system, equal to approximately ten per cent of those in Australia using the scheme.
Mr O’Connor put a number to alleged rorters for the first time, having already reinforced the Gillard government’s intentions to reform the system after new Department of Immigration and Citizenship figures were released on Sunday (April 28th).
”Insofar as numbers, I believe that the areas where there’s been an illegitimate use of 457s numbers [is] not negligible,” he said. ”I would say it would exceed over 10,000.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports the minister’s office was not able to say where the figure for alleged rorters had come from.
His comments have been slammed by industry experts, with Migration Alliance member and registered agent John Findlay describing the government’s position on 457s as “nonsense”.
“I find it outrageous that the minister for immigration can prattle on about ‘rorting the system’ of 457 visas, when it has been his Labor government that has facilitated the 457 visa for the last five years,” he said.
“All sponsorship and visa grants in that period have been according to law. And that law is embodied in regulations. These can easily be changed by minister’s fiat.”
The DIAC data showed growth in 457 immigration visa grants had actually slowed, but Mr O’Connor said demand was still strong and numbers were on the rise.
Overall, there was a 19 per cent increase of people in Australia on 457s at the end of March 2013 when compared with the same period the previous year.
Mr O’Connor pointed to the number of visas granted for the lowest-paid skilled jobs as “concerning”, claiming they had doubled since 2012.
“Locals should have the opportunity to get jobs first, with temporary skilled workers employed from overseas only as a last resort,” he said.
According to Mr O’Connor, he will be examining ways of closing loopholes in the system when parliament resumes in May.
However, the minister’s claim of 10,000 individuals taking advantage of 457s was also questioned by Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Anderson.
He was quoted by The West Australian as saying it was “exaggerated and inflammatory”, adding that it sounded like the figure had been “plucked from the air”.