It makes my blood boil to see how factually wrong information is broadcast… says Ravi Bhatia
…Indian girls will not sacrifice their chastity just to get their PR… says Uday Dhumatkar
Melbourne, August 3: The time was just after 8am on Monday June 27 morning and the start of the final week before the polling day on Saturday July 2. ABC TV did a newsflash that its ‘7.30’ program that evening would expose rampant visa fraud including ‘sex for migration’ racket.
The timing was crucial. Only 4 days before the polling day, the broadcast was at such a critical juncture in the election 2016 cycle, it could potentially deliver a big knockout blow to the Liberals’ much publicised secure handle on immigration and border security.
And thus could be a big winner for the ALP.
The program interviewed two people – Clint Raven and Jasvinder Sidhu an Indian Australian. While Clint Raven appeared as former employee of a company he had worked for and kept his statements and allegations limited to that company, Jasvinder Sidhu appeared as ‘community leader’ and his statements, assertions and allegations, on the other hand were quite broad and sweeping.
The program showed a ‘visa fixer’ captured on secret camera having coffee with an undercover operative, plying his trade (promising to fix sponsorship for money).
In the program Jasvinder Sidhu told claimed that this same man (‘visa fixer’) had messaged him on Facebook in 2015 offering him a stake in the visa scam scheme – $5,000 per case.
Sidhu further claimed that the ‘visa fixer’ was offering multiple sponsorships in commercial cookery, in mechanics and IT and could also arrange 457 in IT – information technology.
“These people will then create your fake timesheets, fake pay slips and they will pay in your bank account and obviously everything else will also be fake, which is superannuation and other related documents… you are paying extra to get or create a job which doesn’t exist and to create a service which was never delivered and you’re getting permanent residency, which is not fake. This is a real output”, Sidhu said.
Jasvinder Sidhu said the human cost of the corrupt visa trade revealed by his contact worried him.
“I knew that he would be exploiting a lot of people who are looking to migrate because these people after paying $50,000, you just need to see the way they live. They live in – 10 people in one house, they don’t eat properly and they do – maybe work 18 hours a day.
“We have seen girls being raped by their employers and we have seen people having injuries at work, for example, their thumb was cut or they had other major injuries and they did not complain.
“A girl contacted me and she sent me her report. She was repeatedly raped at work. And she didn’t speak out”, Sidhu added.
And why didn’t she speak out?
According to Sidhu permanent residency was a “bigger incentive”.
Many in the community feel the broadcast has incorrectly and absolutely unfairly painted the Indian Australian community in a very bad light, without any foundation and reasons. Many question if Jasvinder Sidhu had any evidence justifying the breadth of claims he made on TV.
“He said he knew of what was going on for years. He was offered a stake in the scam last year by the fixer messaging him on Facebook… If he really had the evidence of such a gory state of affairs, he should have gone to authorities long before he went on TV”, said someone who claims to have known Sidhu for many years requesting anonymity.
“That too based on one ‘visa fixer’. The broadcast did not name or refer to any other Indian descent migration agent or lawyer”.
He is not alone.
“It painted the Indian community in a pretty bad light… as perpetrators of fraud. Most of the operators (Indian migration professionals) and businesses are respectable; they follow the law; they respect the law.
“There may be one or two – a very small number of shonky operators. That is what it is limited to. So the story was very unfair”, says former CEO of Primus Telecom Ravi Bhatia, who is a well-respected member of the community.
Param Jaswal, a former migration agent of repute and owner of Imperial College of Australia agrees.
“There are thousands of registered migration agents in Australia. How could you paint such a picture of our community based on one fixer?”, added Param Jaswal.
Param Jaswal is a prominent Indian Australian and a known Liberal in local political circles.
“It was truly unfortunate and absolutely wrong. It is not factual at all. It provided no facts, no statistics of any study”, laments Mr Bhatia.
“The information put forward by Jasvinder Sidhu was highly overstated and highly exaggerated both on the scope and extent of the problem and being shown as happening only in Indian community”, Mr Bhatia added.
The facts support Mr Bhatia and Mr Jaswal. There are 6172 registered migration agents in Australia (as at 31 March 2016). In a list of 77, apparently only 7 Indian Australians found their names mentioned in the MARA sanction list between 9 December 2005 and 27 July 2016.
And Mr Jaswal is particularly hurt about Sidhu’s claims of Indian girls accepting being repeatedly raped to achieve permanent residency.
“I do not believe that our (girls’) standards are so low”, Says Mr Jaswal.
“Unless and until the girl who went through the problem comes forward (or goes to the police) – I would not believe it”, Mr Jaswal concludes.
Other community leaders feel the same.
“I do not think Indian girls are of that character. Except in rarest of a case, I do not think Indian girls will sacrifice their chastity just to get their PR”, says Uday Dhumatkar, another prominent Indian Australian and former president and general secretary of the FIAV, agreeing fully with Mr Jaswal.
In its broadcast, ABC’s 7.30 program did not mention it had sighted the report (of the victim girl) Sidhu claimed he had received.
The Australian Indian community is hurt and upset that ABC’s 7.30 did not make any attempts to verify Sidhu’s assertions and allegations by speaking to any other members of the community, especially people who have been in the business and have been here for decades.
“It is a very surprising thing for the ABC to do… what I would have done if I was the journalist – firstly I would have verified the story. Secondly I would have contacted people who have been in business – who understand these matters to state their point of view”, says Ravi Bhatia.
“The picture painted of the Indian community through that interview is not accurate at all; it is like one bad apple (has) spoilt the whole basket… the whole community is not like that one ‘visa fixer’…”, Mr Dhumatkar adds.
According to Mr Jaswal, Jasvinder’s information was aired untested and unverified.
ABC not only allowed Jasvinder Sidhu to make very broad and sweeping allegations of migration fraud within the community, its presentation seems to have magnified the size of the problem.
In a post by Nick McKenzie on ABC’s website the night before (26-06-2016), Sidhu claimed he knew 40 people who had paid large cash sums to obtain fake skilled and student visas in an effort to get permanent residency.
40 is a miniscule number by any standard when seen in light of Australia’s actual annual in-take to the tune of 189,097 for the year 2014-15.
In the broadcast, Nick McKenzie said Sidhu knows of many (instead of 40) Indians who’ve paid large cash sums who corruptly obtained skilled or student visas in an effort to get permanent residency.
And in the broadcast Sidhu said: “Thousands and thousands of people are being sponsored and they’re all fake.”
Another omission which to me seems unexplainable is a total re-write of Sidhu’s profile. In the post on ABC’s website, Sidhu was characterised as “a lecturer at RMIT and former multicultural advisor to Premier Daniel Andrews”.
The broadcast referred to him only as ‘Indian community leader’.
His connection to Daniel Andrews was totally missing.
Given the timing of the broadcast in the election cycle, Sidhu’s allegiance to his political party should have been revealed. It was imperative for the national audience to know who they were viewing.
The other and equally important reason was his alleged knowledge of immigration fraud when he worked as multicultural advisor to Daniel Andrews.
The ABC website post says: “Mr Sidhu said he became aware of visa scams shortly
after he moved to Australia 10 years ago as a student.”
In an email communication with Bharat Times, Jasvinder Sidhu confirmed he was ‘Multicultural Advisor’ to Daniel Andrews in 2014 and 2015.
Then the relevant question is – did he pass on the information he had to Daniel Andrews’s office? If not, why not?
And if he did, why was it not taken up and accorded its due priority?
BT put all the above relevant questions to Jasvinder Sidhu, including the question of onus of responsibility being on him. He chose only to provide summary of his profile without answering any other questions.
Mr Jaswal believes Sidhu should have told Daniel Andrews office at the very least, if not DIBP or police.
“He (Sidhu) should have told Daniel Andrews. And then it would have been not for him (Sidhu) but up to Daniel Andrews to go on TV and make a statement”, insists Mr Jaswal.
If there is veracity in Sidhu’s claims, then the issue of withholding scam information for 10 years becomes even more questionable with his standing as “University lecturer and social researcher” as Sidhu outlined his profile to BT.
Uday Dhumatkar, a qualified lawyer and a life-long ALP supporter agrees: “He claims he had evidence (of that story). He quotes an exact figure of $80,000 and he suggests it was paid in cash…It was his moral duty and his duty towards fellow Indian community that he should have brought this into the open and help get the things rectified, (especially) when he was advisor to the Opposition leader and then the Premier.”
Vasan Srinivasan, a well-known community leader and former FIAV president and current chair of CIAA goes further:
“By not reporting crime to the authorities, Sidhu was not only withholding crime information, he was encouraging it. What sort of community leader would do that?” asks Vasan Srinivasan.
There is no mention of anyone else other than that one ‘visa fixer’ contacting Sidhu in 2015-2016 or even earlier.
Strangely, the ABC did not mention the age (date and time) of ‘visa fixer’ footage’.
Nor did it ask Sidhu to substantiate his assertions.
Indian community leaders feel the ABC has done them a very big disservice.
“Absolutely and without a doubt… it is truly unfortunate that one of our own would do this to us and without basis in fact without a doubt… all this has no basis in fact”, says a visibly upset Ravi Bhatia.
“I would question the timing of (broadcasting) the story – 3 days before the federal election”, says Mr Jaswal.
Unanimously, the community feels wronged and want the ABC 7.30 to apologize and make a correction based on factual statistics.
“ABC 7.30 program should apologize to the Indian community especially for the sake of all those good Indian Australian employers who are doing the right thing by law”, says Vasan Srinivasan.
Mr Bhatia joined the call for the ABC to apologize, he said:
“It makes my blood boil to see how factually wrong information is broadcast without a contrary point of view… I have done a lot for the community…
“I am happy to lead the effort… I feel the correction should be made.” – DM