Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor
Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor Tom Huntley

FWO's role to expand as part of crackdown on 457 visas

THE Fair Work Ombudsman's office was only notified a week before Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor announced a major crackdown on 457 visas, including increased powers for the FWO.

Laws to initiate a massive crackdown on the 457 visa program and potential rorts of the system by employers were introduced into parliament this week.

Part of the laws will see the FWO's role to expand to examine claims of rorting or misuse of the 457 visa program, in consultation with the Immigration Department.

Acting Ombudsman Michael Campbell told Senate Estimates this week he had no doubt the FWO would be able to deal with the increased role.

However, he said officials with the FWO were only told of the policy, and how it might affect the Office, a week before it was announced.

"I was not personally informed of it. I was in the role at that particular point in time," he said.

"But the office was informed about a week before the announcement that there was a possibility that there would be a new jurisdiction for the organisation with regard to 457 visa holders."

Mr Campbell also said the government has already allocated some $850,000 each year to help run the increased compliance and enforcement role.

He said the extra funding would likely employ an extra six or seven inspectors, on top of the 300-odd investigators already employed.

But he said the increased employment numbers come after 48 people left the compliance division of the FWO last year that the agency had to shed.

"That being said, the agency, I feel, is in a pretty good position to be able to respond to the new jurisdiction," he said.

Mr Campbell said as the agency had already been working with 457 visa holders under its existing role, the new policy was "a national extension of our jurisdiction".

A spokeswoman for Mr O'Connor said while the full cost of the reforms would not be determined until the bills passed, much of the cost was likely to be absorbed by existing government agencies.

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