One of the strangest changes that I have noticed in Melbourne over the past five years has been the proliferation of massage shopfronts.
It seems that any given shopping strip across suburban Melbourne now has at least one (but usually more) massage shops, often with a flashing neon sign showing the shop is open at weird hours (like 9 pm when everything else is shut). The two closest shopping strips near me have several of these shopfronts, all of which have opened in recent years.
I’ve always thought many of these shops looked dodgy and wondered whether they were being used as either money laundering fronts (Breaking Bad-style), visa factories, or for some kind of adult massage. I have also never seen anybody walk in or out of these places, suggesting that demand for massages in Melbourne hasn’t suddenly exploded 1000% over the past five years, as the proliferation of these shopfronts would suggest.
Yesterday, News.com.au uncovered yet more rorting of Australia’s ‘skilled’ 457 visa system, with ‘massage therapists’ reportedly being employed on 457 visas to work as prostitutes:
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 news.com.au, 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 news.com.au, on condition of anonymity…
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.
It quite frankly beggars belief that occupations like ‘massage therapists’ or ‘hair or beauty salon managers’ were placed on the skilled occupations list in the first place. These are hardly highly skilled professions critical to the nation’s productivity. They could also be easily filled by locals with minimal training.
These shortcomings of the 457 visa system were expertly identified by Joanna Howe, Senior Lecturer in Law at University of Adelaide, who noted:
The mechanism for identifying who can apply for these  visas is the Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List. This is a list that has no requirement that the occupation be in demand in the Australian labour market. It includes more than 600 occupations, most of which are not in shortage. So long as an employer nominates an overseas worker to perform a job on this list, then the occupation is deemed to be in need.
Nursing, teaching, engineering and law are all on this list, and are also occupations where Australian graduates are struggling to enter the labour market.
This means the 457 visa can be used by employers who wish to access foreign labour for an ulterior motive.
Blind Freddy can see that the whole 457 visa system is a joke and needs fundamental reform.