Australia needs more skilled labour and the 457 guest worker visa aims to fill that gap. But controversy seems to dog it.  

Mid-year, The 7:30 Report reported Korean welders’ claims that they had been misled about the salary they would earn in Australia and in October, Lateline ran allegations that three Filippino guestworkers had been fired for joining a union.

It was revealed at Senate Estimates Committee hearings on Monday that 190 employers are under investigation for alleged abuses. Details also emerged of a bizarre contract that Chinese printer Fu Zhi Hong entered into with Chinese agent Shanghai Overseas Employment Service Pty Ltd in order to get to Australia.

Having signed up to pay the agent over $20,000 for the visa, Mr Fu also agreed to a set of invasive conditions that would result in breach of contract including “trouble making … inciting political activities” and “impregnating others”.

ALP Senator Kim Carr obtained an English translation of the contract and raised the issue with DIMA’s Abul Rizvi:

Senator CARR—Have you had any other contracts brought to your attention where it is alleged that persons are required to meet conditions such as not impregnating others?

Talk

Mr Rizvi—It has to be clear that this is a contract between Mr Fu and the recruiting agent in China. This is not a contract between Mr Fu and the employer in Australia. As part of the visa process we do ask for and look at the terms of employment of the individual. If the individual overseas has entered into a contract with another individual overseas, and neither of them is the employer, we will not necessarily know about that contract.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone has apparently written to the Chinese government about Mr Fu’s case and DIMA is speaking with Chinese officials about the matter more generally.

It is, of course, a very difficult matter to police. And Vanstone’s $17.6 million mobile strike force, announced on Monday, will have its work cut out for it investigating abuses within Australia.

In fact, the so-called mobile strike force is “nothing more than last minute window dressing”, Carr has said. “It has no teeth to stop these violations.”

Further, “violations of basic human rights are rife under the cover of 457 visas, and have been given a nod and a wink by the Howard Government”, he told the Herald Sun.

Peter Fray

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