FOI documents contradict Government 457 visa claims

THE Federal Government has been forced to defend claims it exaggerated the rorting of temporary work visas after an internal discussion paper was made public.

The report was authored late last year and guided reforms to the program by Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor in February.

But Mr O'Connor had to clarify his position after telling media last weekend that up to 10,000 of the 107,000 workers on 457 work visas were abusing the system.

A confidential government document released through Freedom of Information however, suggested that abuse was rare.

Put together by the Department of Immigration for a ministerial council on skilled migration, each of the changes now embraced by the Federal Government were expected to have little or no impact on how the visas were used.

Of the 12 recommendations, five have been adopted including forcing employers to prove they needed foreign workers for a skills shortage, raising English language requirements and restricting hiring arrangements for 457 workers.

The other seven are under consideration.

A spokeswoman for the Immigration Minister denied Mr O'Connor inflated the numbers.

She said he was asked for an estimate and he said, "as many as 10,000 illegitimate users of the visa".

"The most conservative estimate is 3%, which is 4000 visas."

In an earlier statement, his department said the released document was only one part of a large amount of information used to guide policy.

The Gillard Labor Government secured strong backing from union groups by announcing it would crack down on those trying to cheat the system.

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