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Protection for 457 visa workers

Protection for 457 visa workers

Nicola Berkovic | June 30, 2008

HARSH penalties for employers of 457 visa workers and increased powers for immigration officers are part of a shake-up of Australia's temporary skilled migration program to be proposed today by the Rudd Government.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the new laws would help prevent the exploitation of foreign workers and ensure the wages and conditions of Australian workers were not undercut.

Senator Evans will today release a discussion paper on proposed reforms to the 457 visa regime, as part of a major review promised in April.

Proposed changes include expanded powers for immigration officers to enter and search workplaces to determine whether employers are complying with sponsorship obligations.

Employers could also face penalties of up to 10 years' jail or $110,000 fines for providing false or misleading information, and naming and shaming if they fail to remedy breaches.

Government agencies such as the Australian Taxation Office would also be able to share information to determine whether visa holders were being paid the correct amount.

The proposed changes, planned for September, come as Australia has dramatically increased its intake of permanent and temporary migrants.

For the first time, the temporary skilled migration program will exceed 100,000 over the 2007-08 financial year.

In the discussion paper, the Government also seeks feedback on additional obligations that sponsors may have to temporary foreign workers.

Unions have demanded guarantees of market wages for workers on 457 visas and tough requirements for bosses to prove skilled jobs can't be filled locally.

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