Sex workers on 457s? 'Massage therapists' under scrutiny

THE controversial 457 "skilled worker" visa has been used to bring in "massage therapists" who were then used for prostitution, secret documents reveal.

The documents, obtained by, reveal this was one of many "occupations of concern" identified by an independent review into the 457 program commissioned by the government in 2014.

In a section marked "Massage Therapist", the paper notes:

"This addresses concerns about potential use of this occupation in a prostitution setting. While lodged nomination numbers are very low, they are increasing and it is considered that the Australian community would be very concerned about such positions being filled with overseas workers."

A source close to the review said the government knew there had been cases where this had happened.

"The government has been aware that 457 visas are being used to exploit people for prostitution for some time," the insider told, on condition of anonymity.

457 VISAS ABOLISHED: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced plans to replace 457 visas in an online video.
457 VISAS ABOLISHED: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced plans to replace 457 visas in an online video.

The individual said they could not divulge any more information however the document notes a rise in the lodgement of massage therapist applications, as well as the number of those being rejected.

"Refusal and lodgement rates are also increasing," it states.

The document's "Proposed risk treatments for occupations of concern" recommends excluding any "massage therapist" positions that "are not full time", "are not located in a therapeutic setting" or "involve the provision of massage for relaxation purposes".

Other occupations of concern identified were "hair or beauty salon managers" who were in fact sales assistants or beauty therapists, "transport and company managers" who were in fact truck drivers, "importers and exporters" who were in fact low-skilled clerks and even "animal attendants and trainers", which could include someone working in a piggery.

The unreleased document gives unprecedented insight into why the Turnbull Government launched a major crackdown on 457 visas last week, a move that some on the left have denounced as xenophobic but which unions say does not go far enough in tackling employer rorts.

As at September 30, 2016, there were 95,757 workers in Australia on primary 457 visas.

The program will be replaced by a new two-tiered visa program with more restrictions and greater skills tests, however those already here on 457 visas will continue under the same program they entered under.

In announcing the new regime, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it would prevent employers rorting the system to bring in unskilled foreign workers.

"It will ensure foreign workers are brought into Australia in order to fill critical skill gaps and not brought in simply because an employer finds it easier to recruit a foreign worker than go to the trouble of hiring an Australian," he said.