Decline in 457 visa abuse casts doubt on crackdown
The number of employers found to have abused the foreign worker visa program has steadily declined over the past three years, casting serious doubts about the rationale behind the Gillard government's new push to crack down on ''rorts''.
The revelations came as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott launched a full frontal assault on the Prime Minister, accusing her of ''demonising foreigners'' with her vow in western Sydney on Sunday to put ''Aussie workers'' at the front of the jobs queue.
In an extraordinary day where both sides of politics accused the other of fear-mongering over immigration, Julia Gillard responded to Mr Abbott's attacks by criticising the Opposition Leader's language over asylum seekers, including his reference to a ''peaceful invasion'' of boat people.
Crack down on 457 visa "rorts": Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Photo: Scott Barbour
At the centre of Tuesday's debate was the government's decision last month to tighten obligations on employers bringing foreign workers into the country under the 457 visa program because of alleged rorting.
Ms Gillard justified the policy in a keynote address that launched her five-day swing through Sydney's west as an attempt ''to stop foreign workers being put at the front of the queue with Australian workers at the back''.
But figures from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship reveal the number of administrative sanctions - barring or cancelling a sponsor from the 457 visa program - declined from 164 in the 2009-10 financial year to 137 in 2010-11 and 125 in 2011-12.
The department also confirmed it had brought only three civil cases against employers for misusing the section 457 visa program since September 2009.
Two cases were settled out of court, including one in which a sponsor was fined $5000 for creating non-genuine positions.
While there was a decline in serious breaches, there was a spike in infringement notices for minor offences. The number of such fines increased from two to 49 over the same period, a department spokesman said.
with Judith Ireland