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A SPECIALIST integrity unit has been formed inside the Department of Immigration to deal with widespread fraud in the working holiday visa program, on which industries such as fruit growing depend.

More than 200 internet advertisements have been found offering to buy or sell documents allowing backpackers to claim they had worked in rural jobs without them leaving Sydney, and thus extend their working holiday visas. The standard fee is $400. So far, 64 visas have been cancelled over the fraud and at least 19 more are being reviewed.

One man, an Irish national, has been convicted of fraud. ”There’s been more than 100 fraudulent claims identified this financial year,” a spokeswoman for the department said. ”The answer is we don’t know [the full extent of the fraud]. At this stage it’s too early to determine and we will be looking at it over the next six months.”

The working holiday visa (subclass 417) allows people to extend their stay in Australia by a year if they can prove they have worked in a rural area for three months. Applications are lodged online but have been abused by people selling Australian business numbers linked to farms so backpackers can falsely claim they worked on farms.

”Second year visas for sale,” one ad read. ”Will email completed 1263 form and add your details to my books so you can gain second year visa with ease.”

Another ad offering similar services, posted on the Gumtree website on Saturday, had received more than 2000 hits by last night. Unlike visa scams targeting international students, mainly Indians, this fraud is used mainly by European visitors.

One backpacker told the Herald he had been offered the false documentation as soon as be arrived in Australia, by people staying at the same hostel.

”People told me about buying the documents – getting the numbers to put in,” he said. ”When I arrived here people said you can go there [to a farm] or you can buy. Everyone knows about it. It’s easy. All the people who are here know about that.”

The federal Opposition spokeswoman on immigration, Sharman Stone, said the widespread fraud reflected under-resourcing of the department.

Source  :  www.smh.com.au
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WILD weather has caused havoc across Perth, uprooting trees, tearing off roofs and plunging homes into darkness.   

Winds travelling at more than 100km/h tore through the city overnight, ripping the roof off a granny flat in Doubleview, collapsing a ceiling in Joondalup and blowing in the windows of a house in City Beach.

More than 17,000 are believed to be without power because of the storm, mostly in the Perth hills.

State and Emergency Services (SES) have recorded 70 calls for help since 7am, with a total of 125 incidents logged since 6pm last night and 240 properties impacted.

Damage has been reported in coastal suburbs from Two Rocks to Rockingham and all SES units in the metropolitan area have been activated with volunteers in Northamweather called in for backup.

A series of cold fronts have been lashing the city since Friday, with Rottnest, Ocean Reef, Mandurah and Bickley some of the worst hit areas.

Ocean Reef recorded a wind gust of 107km/h and gusts of 115km/h were recorded at Rottnest, where ferry services have been cancelled.

The ports of Fremantle and Kwinana ports have suspended operations until midday.

Across the state, Cape Naturalist and Cape Leeuwin recorded wind gusts of up to 109km/h.  There have been reports of fallen trees and minor damage to homes in Bunbury, Busselton and Capel.

The WA Bureau of Meteorology says it is the wettest day of the year.

Flights from Perth’s international terminal are running half an hour behind schedule, and Main Roads are urging motorists to slow down and take care in the inclement weather.

Near the city, waves from the Swan River were lapping around peak hour traffic on the Kwinana Freeway this morning, while Riverside Drive and parts of Beaufort St have isolated flooding.

Traffic lights are out on the intersection of Great Eastern Highway and Stoneville Rd in Mundaring and at the junction of Kalamunda Rd and Gooseberry Hill Rd.

WA Bureau of Meteorology climate information officer John Relf says 23.2mm of rain has fallen overnight taking Perth much closer to the 177mm average with 147.8mm of rain recorded this month.

“We have exceeded last year’s June rainfall of 142mm,” he said.

Heavy rain has been reported from Collie to Walpole.

WA Water Corporation spokeswoman Clare Lugar says dams should have now started benefiting from the all rainfall.

“Up until Friday the streams hadn’t started to flow,” Ms Lugar said.  “But we are expecting it to have begun flowing over the weekend.” 

The wild weather is expected to ease up later tonight with fine weather forecast by Thursday.

Source  :   www.news.com.au

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Relief is on the way for stranded holidaymakers on Rottnest Island after a major ferry service decided to brave dubious weather conditions this weekend.

Rottnest Express had cancelled services until Monday, after forecasts of gale-force winds. It left up to 200 people stranded on the island until at least Monday, after the other operator, Oceanic Express, also decided against taking to the sea this weekend.

But Rottnest Express today decided to run skeleton services this weekend, with four trips to the island, and two back, tomorrow and Sunday.

Chief executive Tim Crosland said the company believed it had an obligation to always provide services “if safe”.

Each scheduled journey would be assessed on the prevailing weather conditions, he said.

Oceanic Express is running a service today for pre-booked passengers.

Source www.watoday.com.au

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Gale force winds tipped to hit Perth this weekend have forced two ferry operators to cancel all trips to Rottnest Island.                                                         sea storm               

The popular Rottnest Express confirmed it has cancelled all bookings from Friday to Sunday inclusive while Oceanic Cruises will not operate on Saturday or Sunday.

The third company which operates ferry trips to the island, Rottnest Fast Ferries, was already closed until July 3 for its regular winter break.

A Rottnest Express spokesman confirmed there had been “a few” bookings and all passengers would be issued refunds, while Oceanic Cruises did not have any bookings for this weekend.

Bureau of Meteorology public weather services manager Neil Bennett said waters from Yanchep to Mandurah and offshore to Rottnest Island could expect winds reaching between 30 to 40 knots on Friday and Saturday.

Mr Bennett said it was likely the Bureau would issue at least a strong wind warning but likely a gale force wind warning for the area.

Source  :   www.thewest.com.au

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Chef Gordon Ramsay has cancelled his planned visit to Perth at the end of this month.           

A spokeswoman for the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre which is hosting the $1000-a-head dinner and a $125-a-head motivational breakfast with the star,

said it had received an email from event management company Diablo Events saying Ramsay would not appear at the two events at the convention centre.

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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