DUBIOUS applications for foreign worker visas have been approved because rules prevented officials from investigating their suspicions, the federal government argues.
Following the government's move to tighten the skilled-worker 457 visa program, the Immigration Minister, Brendan O'Connor, has outlined specific examples in an attempt to back up his claims that the scheme has been rorted by unscrupulous employers.
But employer groups have insisted this kind of dodgy behaviour was rare. And the opposition has questioned the role of Mr O'Connor's union leader brother, Michael, in driving the changes.
The Australian Mines and Metals Association said the prospect of jeopardising the resources industry's contribution to the nation due to a few isolated incidents was ''completely absurd''.
A business can sponsor a worker for a 457 visa if they cannot find an appropriately skilled Australian citizen or permanent resident. By December, there were about 84,000 people on such visas in Australia.
Mr O'Connor has flagged plans to tighten the system, including restricting labour hire arrangements and ensuring the Department of Immigration and Citizenship can crack down on rorts by ensuring that employers provide the information necessary during the application process.
The opposition has questioned the role of Michael O'Connor, the national secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, in making the decision to amend the visa rules.
The union has campaigned heavily to change the laws around 457 visas, but were less successful under Mr O'Connor's predecessor, Chris Bowen.