Prostitutes boom on 457 visas

By Leith van Onselen

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, 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, 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…

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 [457] 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.

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist


  1. “hardly highly skilled professions critical to the nation’s productivity” Didn’t HnH tell us a few months ago that he went to his local specialist for a massage and his productivity was better after?
    But, yes, it beggars belief.

  2. In Sydney too, they are everywhere, my wife and I have made the mistake on several occasions, all at the same joint

    • Huh? So after mistakenly getting a massage at a happy endings joint you then went back a few times to make sure?

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      Yes, well its even worse when you confuse it the otherway around and you reveal, when you roll over, that your raging horn is ready to be “finnished off” by you horrified masseuse.

      They appear to be no less relieved or thankfull when you correct said embarrassing situation by finnishing your self off.

      Misunderstandings will hapoen sometimes.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      The missus is a massage therapist. Mostly does old people and busted athletes. The roll over and finish me off requests used to be rare. Same as the weird hour phone calls. There’s been an uptick in the last couple of years though. Now she makes sure the potential client knows it’s about massage before taking the bookings. Still, some don’t get it.

      Lots of calls late at night when we’re watching old The Good Life repeats. How dare these ruffians interrupt Felicity!

      *sigh* Felicity…

      • If they made that show now, the premise would have to be something about property investors who escape the rat race by selling of their twelve properties and going BACK to work.

    • A friend of mine in Dublin went into 1 of these Thai Massage places in Ireland with a friend of his. He heard some murmurings from the other room which sounded like his friend was asking for “a happy ending”… He says, “Did you just ask for a happy ending?” and the masseuse working on him freaks out (due to her lack of English skills) saying “no happy ending, no happy ending” and boots him out. He tried to explain that he wasn’t asking for 1, but instead thought that his friend was asking for 1. It didn’t matter, he had to leave. :D.

      At least that’s how he tells the story… 🙂

  3. Random PunterMEMBER

    And Brisbane. The good shops close, and in move the real estate agents, tattoo joints, and dodgy rub and tugs. Which, when considering the profile of your average specufestor, perhaps isn’t so surprising.

  4. We’re becoming a nation of Genies is all I can think of. Their productivity does lift after a good rubbing.

    • I am regularly in a shopping mall out in the burbs of Geelong at a place called Newcomb.

      There is one of these massage places there slipped in between a travel agent and a butcher, with a cheap glasses place across the aisle alongside and an Indian take away, all with a loads of kids rides leading down to an Aldi. I have never seen anyone in there, and must confess I do wonder if it is a front for something, but would not have dreamed in a million years that people would seriously go there for any form of happy ending – lay back and listen to some screaming kid or a fresh, load of trolleys coming in while waiting for the vinegar stroke. I would have thought it more a tragic outer urban ending.

      I do wonder about the economics of it all though..

      • We must hang in the same hood Gunna! I’ve been in there for a few massages and they call what they do remedial massage but not sure of their quals but gets covered by private health. I’ve also questioned whether it is a front for something more sinister but no chance of happy endings in there as they have sheets for walls! It’s all happning in G-bong though, I’ve never seen 2 cranes up before with another planned for September!

      • Glad to hear it Pirate Nation.

        It didnt strike me as a happy ending sort of joint. It does seem to be all happening in Geetroit at the moment. I am told that in parts of Geetroit the RE prices are going el whacko and between Waurn Ponds and Leopold the outer burban shopping malls are getting bigger by the day.

        That said, I have been out all morning cutting up wood for the fire (off work this week) out Steiglitz way – wonderful.

  5. ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

    Being a thrifty kinda fella,…I prefer to provide myself with my own happy endings.

    • boomengineeringMEMBER

      What do you mean prefer, in my case its a choice between keep your pipes clean to prevent prostrate cancer. I’m with you on being thrifty, have never paid in one of those places and got kicked out when my mates went in and I just wanted to see what it looked like.

      • What is it with Aussie guys and this claim that they never paid to get any?
        Personally my member ain’t so marvelous that the ladies are lining up for just a glance but I do find that what I lack in that department can be easily compensated for by wrapping the little present in $50 notes.
        A pocket full of $50’s get me all the attention that I can possibly stand.
        In other areas I’m a big DIY’er but this is one area where I like to leave it to the professionals.

      • boomengineeringMEMBER

        Smart, don’t worry we a pay a heavy price, more than your professional visits.

    • I just moved into a house with 4.5L toilets! Do some of your clients ask for bigger cisterns (9L)?

    • This makes you eminently qualified to become a leader of any Australian political party or a member of Parliament.
      The bunch of wankers that they are.

  6. Now I see why MB predicts deflation in Oz. All this competition brings prices down in the rub and tug industry and since this industry becomes dominant one as per Random P comment..

    • We’ll never look at ScoMo’s and Trimbul’s comments the same ever again: “Growth has been pretty flacid for the last number of quarters. Applying highly localised and targeted stimulus has not had the desired effect, as it seems the economy has entered a prolonged refractory period.” – Hector Erector: Minister for Economic Fluffing and Building Erections.

    • Well – it’s still holes – just the other kind.

      And considering the traffic – some would be open-cut mines… Gives a new meaning to FIFO – F*ck In, F*ck Off …

  7. As I said in 2014, the solution is to put a simple tax on each 457 visa. In 2014 I felt it should be $10k/year but now I think it has to be $50k/year.

    There should be no occupation list – we cannot possibly know about all the occupations and if there is a “shortage” of workers in a particular occupation.

  8. Not sure how common this is but at two of my local Chinese rub and tug’s there’s high stakes gaming going on upstairs. Buy-in is typically a minimum of $20K and they like to see the cash upfront, usually by invitation only and you’ve got to be a known local player before you’ll ever get an invite.
    While you’re at the tables the ladies work their magic for free, which is something that I pass on because I’m there to win, matter of fact I often wait for the other players to loose their focus before upping the ante, at the same moment that the blood leave their brain their money usually leaves their wallet. I call that my win-win strategy.
    As I said I’m always up for a little wager so I’ve got no problem with this as long as they run an honest game.

    • I thought you hosted these things?
      Nah, I might host an odd game or two for private players but you need to be real careful because you never know whose toes you might be standing on. Strictly friends is my hosting policy, of course taking their money is a good way to loose friends, so that does somewhat limit my ability to host games.
      There are also too many crazy F’er out there who would love to find such a game for a quick payday, too much “security” will just attract the wrong sort of attention so you kind of need to rely on secrecy and your notification procedures to keep the game secure.

  9. This is the tip of the iceberg of ‘evil’ ! Not the moral judgement of ‘being on the game’ but the organised crime syndicates and the ruthless debt bondage that never ends.

    If the slave disappears (even for a while) someone visits the home in China or where ever and hurts, or much worse, the siblings or other family.

    This is a national disgrace.

    • Same thing with human trafficking was going on in Ireland, but it was a lot of Romanian’s not so much Thai/Chinese.. It seems that every boom has the same kind of outcome and shadiness to it.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      Ahh,…I see we are some way to go,…before we reach “Peak” happy endings per week.

      • Just be careful though – if this goes the way everything went in this country – corners will be cut… and you will get a happy ending based on the Dencorub leftovers from over your back… 🙂

  10. There’s three of these joints that I can think of in my local mall in Canberra. They never seem to have any customers and I assumed they were fronts for money laundering crims.

  11. Without any irony, this is one of the greatest contributions asians have made to our country

    The local women are too precious to do the job!

  12. The problem with the coding of what is a skill occupation for 457 Visas is that in the ANZSCO codes all “managers” are treated as “managers” from CEO of a large company to farm managers. There should be no skilled visas for “mangers” or it should be a different visa category which has a much harsher criteria.

  13. Yes 457 Human Trafficking. This country is morally bankrupt.

    Recently I was in Perth on business and due to a serious case of Arthritis I headed down Hay street and walked into a massage venue. Which I checked out online first and it seemed to be legit.
    Long story short the old woman was pulling at my jocks and telling me to get them off and it would be better if she took both $50 bills and I got two girls instead of one. I was in so much pain I could not take in what she was saying at first.
    She pretends to massage my aching body, then her phone rings and she starts telling a punter about the new girl who is very petite with beautiful little breasts. I got dressed and left.
    I have no philosophical objection to paying.. For years I paid thousands a month and received nothing. So there is clearly a gap in the market.

    I object to the Feds bringing in young vulnerable girls to be used as sex slaves.

    Do nothing disgusts me as well as that feminist pin up women PM we had before. Abbot was a outright mofo so I have no objection to him being true to himself and allowing this to happen on his watch.

    • ” For years I paid thousands a month and received nothing. So there is clearly a gap in the market.”
      ….. no offence intended but are you referring to what most know as; marriage?

  14. I work full time from home as a remedial and deep tissue masseur. Working for myself from home is the only way to make a living. Hear in Avalon, Sydney the overheads are too exorbitant otherwise.

    Last five years there has been an influx of high street Thai massage. Has to be a front for ‘yellow fever’ offerings as there is just not enough clients or money to go around. Have some clients who visit me after seeing them ‘dissatisfied’ with their service.

    I think they do genuine massage but are crap, cheap and only offer happy endings if you ask. No ask … no get. Just get ordinary massage with equally ordinary communication as per dodgy ingwish.

    If you want competent massage you have to pay for it. Like anything i suppose.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      The missus makes a fair bit on rescue cases from the dodgy establishments.

      Got a new client today who has a phobia about massage now. The newbie reckons she still felt like she’d been beaten up six weeks later.

  15. Just out of interest: What’s your fundamental objection to this 457 pros?
    Should I understand that this is a job which you want to reserve for your own family?
    Or is this a job that’s traditionally been performed by some local Guild and now they’re out of pocket, maybe it’s your neighbors little earner?
    Are you really just objecting to the devaluation of the services provided by the expansion of the work force?
    or Is it the diminished earning potential of Aussie born crack hoe’s that’s got you concerned?
    Seriously WTF is the problem?

      • This report seems to be about events that largely pre-date 457 visas, such as the case in the Brunswick St brothel (which I think may have been called 457, after its street number). Certainly, the report itself was screened before these visas got the ‘457’ title, and their use took off.

      • Apparently I’m the only one here with any first hand (excuse the pun) experience in the workings of these establishments, so maybe I’m a moral degenerate, but at least I’m an honest degenerate and not a f’ing hypocrite so by Dante’s calculations I’m destined to occupy the Second ring of Hell while it’s the Eight ring for the rest of you.
        IF you want to protect workers from exploitation than the best way to do this is by having these businesses operate out in the open, yeah on main street with flashing Red Massage signs.
        That way ATO inspectors and council inspectors can just rock up any time they want and check licenses and certifications, health certificates for everyone on the premises. If Sex slavery is suspected than there are legitimate ways to police these establishments. the worst thing that can possibly happen is for the whole industry to go underground. It’s bad for the girls safety and bad for the community especially from a health perspective.

      • Smart … full respect for being honest and not a hypocrite.
        I can’t help but wonder which circle of hell most of our politicians deserve to go into.

      • The Brunswick st Brothel in the 4 corners story as having been raided and shut down in a major sex slavery case was pretty much in the open – on one of Melbourne’s busiest shopping precincts, close to Alexander Parade, and regularly advertised in the local paper until its closure. Ditto the Candy Club, also mentioned in the report as potentially being run in the past by sex traffickers, located on Victoria st, Nth Richmond, such that you could easily pass it with kids in tow if you couldn’t remember where you put the car after visiting your favourite purveyor of hot pho. So far as brothels are concerned, they’re as in the open as they can be without installing large clear (not painted) windows.
        In the mean time, given there is licenced legal prostitution in Victoria, if there are illegal rub and tugs, their owners are presumably trying to avoid the sensible restrictions that are attached to legal brothels, such as, iirc, convicted criminals and other ‘improper persons’ being prevented from being licencees. My take is that being the case, secrecy is of paramount importance for these guys.

  16. If they’re staffed with 457s, then they’ve got pretty much 80% of all 457s working in these places considering how many there are. Seems more likely that they’re here on student/ backpacker visas, or just overstaying plain old tourist visas, which would go some way to explaining why they’re prepared to work for the pittance that must be available considering the extremely low level of business these places seem to all be doing.

    (EDIT: This point seems doubly true when considering that there are twice as many again nail salons exclusively with Asian women, as Owen below references, all presumably on some sort of visa)

  17. “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 ARE actually rctitical to the nation’s productivity as it is now measured. That’s the sort of economy we have produced as a result of slavishly following a BS economic model for between 34 and 60 yeas depending on how you look at it. Either way it is BS!
    Massage parlours are the only symptom you see of this??? Coffee shops; tattoo/drug parlours; Nail trimming shops; Booze shops; Gambling proliferation;Hardly Machine Davidsons; Real estate agents in Audis et al; Poodle care shops; Big 4WD’s that never even get dust on them; Lawyers; Restaurants and fast food joints and the compulsory guyms that we then think are going to remove the fat (Bwahahahaaa!) etc etc etc This stuff is the HEART and SOUL of the Australian economy. It’s out GROWTH!!!!!

    • Services economeh! It’s the Fewtcher!

      Mind you – between all the fast food joints and the “massage” parlours – it’s a growing (in more ways than one) area. What is a lard-ass young infestor to do when you have troubles 1). seeing your Jon-Tom 2). reaching to grab your Jon-Tom”… Obviously that’s where the “remedial massage” comes in..

  18. The best massage I ever had was from a very large woman. Only they have the strength to get in there and deal with your muscles. Not that I’ve had many.

    I’ve noticed this too in Sydney. Almost obligatory in shopping arcades for a little massage place to be there that you could blink and miss. Never see anyone go in. Full blown Asian prostitution is rampant too and it all sounds really gross if you care to look into it.

    • Owen ….. the ‘hairy magnet’ (or nubile in this day and age) has a cost no matter how your bread is buttered.

  19. Hell, cut out the middle man. I heard from a male friend that there were Asian students turning tricks around the streets of ANU colleges.
    In answer to the question what’s a pwrson’s objection to this, mine is, like virtually every aspect of our immigration practice, that there’s no narrative around it. The government has hushed up discussion of every aspect of immigration for twenty years and that is what feeds every negative outcome, asbrought to light here on MB.

    • There have been similar reports of Asian students living close by UTS in Sydney offering prostitution in the surrounding apartment complexes which neighbours are complaining about.

      • The student prostitute thing seems like an inevitable consequence of Australia’s practice of marketing expensive higher education to people who can’t really afford it, or at least not when combined with the cost of living in Sydney, and is probably a larger problem than prostitution on 457 visas.

      • I know the UTS too well and its surrounds. I think you’d find the workers who “work” in these establishments are not the cashed up Chinese princess with wealthy parents who attends a fee paying university such as UTS, Sydney etc as an overseas student. There might be the odd one who is into it because she has spent all of her expense account on designer handbags or has some sort of a drug habit.
        The likely candidates who work in these massage establishments are those who attend private English colleges (such as the Kent) and the TAFE as a overseas student. Studying English, childcare or some sort of catering course. Those girls are here on a budget and have to raise funds somehow here and hope to eventually get PR. In Sydney, especially around UTS Haymarket, many of these shops cater for their own kind. Asian male students and Asian clientele. I have also heard some “professionals” come out here on tourist visas, make as much money as they can while overstaying the visa. Then they depart back to China – what’s border security going to do to a woman who has overstayed their visa by 6 months, who is checking out of Sydney booked on a flight back to China? will they detain her?, then she misses her flight and then the taxpayer has to pay for her airfare? or just give her a quick lecture about overstaying and then let her depart, the blacklist which prevents her coming back in is just the price she pays. China and Korea is where they are coming from due to this governments obsession with trade with those two countries. Its days of the Thai or Pinay girl working in that industry are largely long gone.

    • Keeps the arrow pointing up!

      I guess, we just have to wait for the ads to show up – we’ve been told so many times that immigration has brought variety to the otherwise drab eglish culinary tradition. We’ll soon be told that this also brings variety to the english bland sex. No more just “lay there and think of England”… it’s all sizes, all colours, all shapes… all tastes? Diversity, mkay? 🙂 You don’t want to be labeled “p*ssy racist”, do you?

  20. The problem is not with immigration but rather DEET (Department of Education and Training). I would suspect that minimal investigation goes into whether there are really skills shortages in the listed occupations. Immigration relies on DEET advice when assessing 457 sponsorships. Also, there are prostitutes here working in brothels on working holiday maker visas. It’s legal.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      Heaps of the student visa holders too are plying the trade.

      I suspect a lot of the most skungy operations, where genuine debt bondage, and outright sex slavery is going on,…that 457s are a preferred way to bring in these, often to young and vulnerable women, to be raped by Australians for the profiteers of a modern day slave trade.

      Paying a little bit extra fellas and getting one with good english,…is one way to ensure your not one of the scummy cunts, enabling the darker side of this “industry” to exist.

      Another way is to just wank yourself,…or buy one of these,

  21. Disturbed but I guess not surprised.

    In terms of other people’s comments about nail parlours and being full of Asian female workers. Speaking from my wife’s Vietnamese perspective, this is a very popular job for poorly educated girls because it is easy and they enjoy it. Family and friends even encourage their daughters/friends to do it, it’s like go to job to do if you can’t get other work. Not sure if 457s are involved but all the aquantences my wife knows that does nails live here and married to Australians.

  22. I did not know till today that prostitutes were on DIAC’s skill shortage occupation list.

  23. kiwikarynMEMBER

    I have a friend who went and studied massage therapy after being made redundant from 30 odd years working in the newspaper printing industry. He has struggled to find full time work as a masseuse. We tell these people who are made redundant from jobs made obsolete by technology to go retrain as something, and when they do, we flood the country with cheap immigrant labour so that they get to feel doubly useless and unwanted (and poorer for the student debt). My friend is depressed and suicidal. The plight of the unemployed middle aged man that is the foundation of Trump’s support is not limited to America. These people are now everywhere – sad, angry, resentful. They did the right thing after school, got a trade, got a job, then when made redundant they again did what they were told, signed up for retraining, got a new trade, then tried to get a job …. but who is going to employ a guy on proper wages when you can employ a dirt cheap immigrant on minimum wage (or less) on zero hour contracts?