'No evidence to support government's 457 visa rorting claims'

THE Australian Industry Group has described the Federal Government's crackdown on temporary overseas work visas as a "redneck campaign run by some people in the union", arguing the scheme is vital to regional areas.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox accused the government of "rushing" legislative changes to the 457 visa scheme, including the introduction of labour force testing.

Mr Willox said there was no evidence to support the government's claims the 457 visa scheme was being rorted.

"This is just an almost redneck campaign run by some people in the union movement to drive fear into the community about migrants in Australia," Mr Willox told ABC radio.

"These are the people (457 visa holders) who work in our regional hospitals, these are people who work on regional construction projects and it would be very disappointing if crossbenchers in regional areas decided that they wanted to stop or limit the ability of companies to engage people on 457 visas."

Mr Willox was commenting on research conducted in the federal seats of Lyne and New England - held by key regional independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor - that showed people in those communities were opposed to 457 visas.

The UMR Research, which was commissioned by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, found a majority of voters rejected the program, irrespective of whether they identified as independent, Labor or Coalition voters.

Majorities in both electorates - 63% in Lyne and 53% in New England - approved of the Federal Government's new restrictions on temporary overseas workers.

CFMEU assistant national secretary David Noonan said while the research was confined to just two seats, it was consistent with national polling which showed people in regional areas were concerned about the 457 scheme.

"In many regional communities it is a part of peoples lived experience to know young Australian's who miss out on training and employment opportunities in favour of vulnerable and easily exploited temporary foreign labour," Mr Noonan said.

"People don't like it, they think that apprenticeships and jobs for young Australians should be the priority. Politicians ignore clear findings like this at their peril."

Mr Noonan said the UMR Research also dispelled claims the 457 crackdown was fuelled by racism towards migrants.

He described Mr Willox's "redneck" jibe as "outrageous".

"Mr Willox appears to be confused. There is no basis for any assertion that any organisations like trade unions ... are racist," Mr Noonan said.

"Our multicultural credentials will stand up to the Australian Industry Group's any day."

He also took exception with Mr Willox's claims 457 visas were widely used on regional construction projects.

"The figures actually show that the vast majority of construction workers on 457 visas are in Sydney and Melbourne, not on regional construction projects," he said.

"We would invite Mr Willox to visit a regional construction project, because the next one he visits will be his first."

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