Some of Australia’s biggest mining and infrastructure projects are using workers who have gained skilled migrant visas or permanent residency by misleading the government about their employment status.
AFR, Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker, 8 August 2014
Contractor Murphy Pipe and Civil repeatedly misled the Immigration Department to help Irish workers fraudulently obtain visas to work on the Queensland Curtis LNG project and Western Australia’s Sino iron ore project.
Leaked company files and well-placed sources have revealed evidence of widespread rorting of temporary skilled worker 457 visas and, to a lesser extent, working holiday visas.
Fairfax Media has confirmed the Immigration Department has failed to investigate the fraud, despite being contacted by whistleblowers over the past three years.
It is also understood the federal government’s yet to be released inquiry into the 457 scheme has found it has major weaknesses.
In a statutory declaration obtained by Fairfax Media, one of the MPC whistleblowers claims the department failed to follow up information he provided about the firm.
It states that the whistleblower identified numerous “unskilled workers [labourers and machine operators] holding 457 visas that classed them as project co-ordinators and contract administrators”.
“MPC have sponsored a large amount of unskilled overseas workers under the 457 system knowing quite well they would never be engaged in the position stipulated on their 457 visa.”
Four other sources who worked for the firm have corroborated the whistleblowers’s claims, with one revealing they too sought an investigation from the Immigration Department without success and another saying they quit in disgust.
Confidential company documents also corroborate the allegations of visa fraud.
The leaked documents include a description of what the department was to be told about the skilled role a 457 applicant was to fill. A second reference names the actual, unskilled job to be given to the worker.
The documents reveal MPC has been sponsoring multiple Irish workers on 457 visas as “project administrators” or in other skilled roles, despite knowing they would be employed in unskilled jobs. In one case, an unskilled Irish labourer who submitted a handwritten resume had his resume typed up and rewritten . He was then employed on a 457 visa as a “project administrator”.
Multiple sources aware of the rorting said it involved senior staff, migration agents and schemes to help overseas workers obtain permanent residency. “It was about getting a compliant workforce,” said a source.
The sources also said MPC was failing to meet employer requirements to attempt to employ local workers before sponsoring overseas workers. Another source said: “This is people smuggling.
“There are genuine asylum seekers and genuine skilled migrants seeking sponsorship who are being turned away, but these Irish guys can just blatantly waltz in and rort the system with the company’s help.”
Responding to revelations in Fairfax Media on Thursday about rorting of the skilled migration scheme, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said “there is no tolerance for that anywhere, whether it is on the borders with people smuggling or in the workforce with 457 visas’’.
He said he had demanded an urgent briefing from his department and, when asked if fraud could be costing Australian jobs, said: ‘‘that is really what we have to get to the bottom of’’.
In a statement, MPC said ‘‘it would never intentionally commit a breach of the migration act’’ and said that it had relied on external advice when sponsoring its workers. The firm also said it needed more information to respond to the allegations but later turned down repeated offers from Fairfax Media to provide a detailed briefing.
Fairfax Media has sent the Immigration Department documents that appear to show the company misleading the department.