The Information Technology Contract and Recruitment Association (ITCRA) has called for tougher legislative sanctions and penalties against businesses that exploit the temporary 457 Visa program.
ITCRA called for tougher penalties in its submission this week to the Federal Government's joint standing committee on migration inquiry into temporary business visas which also examined the Temporary Business (Long Stay) 457 visa, used to fill the shortfall of skilled IT professionals in Australia.
ITCRA said the use of 457 visa's has proven to be extremely successful but admitted it has also been open to abuse.
Pointing out that the IT sector generated in excess of $78.8 billion for the fiscal year 2005-2006, ITCRA said the 457 visa is critical to Australia's future economic growth.
However, the submission admits there is a "small proportion of businesses that wilfully choose to exploit the 457 visa regime."
The submission says there is no suitable deterrent to address this exploitation or to ensure businesses comply with both immigration and workplace law.
"Our members do not use the 457 visa program to minimise their obligation to recruit, hire and/or train Australians. They utilise the flexibility and speed of the 457 visa program as a supplementary measure in order to satisfy the present and impending skills shortage and employment demands in Australia, which, at present levels will reach a zero net migration point in the foreseeable five to 10 years," the submission said.
Lack of funding at the Department of Immigration has undermined monitoring of the 457 program to ensure businesses are compliant, according to the submission.
ITCRA called for more human capital and funds to increase monitoring activities and to detect non-compliant activities.
ITCRA has made numerous requests to the Department of Immigration over the past four years seeking information on whether any ITCRA member companies were not compliant with the government's 457 regulations and policies. Senior officers have made it clear that there has not been an ITCRA member company that is non compliant.
Due to the success of the visa program, ITCRA is keen to ensure it remains in place and that skill level requirements are also unchanged or altered in anyway.
The submission also recommends the introduction of fast-tracking 457 applications to reward sponsoring businesses who have a history of compliance.
ITCRA said the need for the visa program has never been greater as the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) ICT Vacancy Index has increased 200 percent in the three years since February 2004. The index to mid February 2007 is 35.1 percent higher than in February 2006.