Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s office will be guilty of “deliberately covering up” a potential abuse of the 457 visa scheme over the hiring of her communications director, Scotsman John McTernan, unless it releases the details of his appointment, Coalition senators say.

On Monday afternoon, a government-led committee tabled its report looking into 457 visas ahead of a vote due this Tuesday on a bill clamping down on the work visas.

The committee recommended the new laws be passed by the Parliament.

But a dissenting report has warned, among many issues with the new legislation, of a potential abuse of the 457 scheme by the office of the prime minister.

News Limited has reported that Ms Gillard’s office ignored freedom of information laws and has refused to hand over documents relating to the hiring of John McTernan, her communications chief.

It had requested documents showing whether adequate efforts had been taken to identify a suitable person in Australia to head up the prime minister’s communications office before Mr McTernan was hired in 2011.

The new laws introduced by Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor this month will force employers to show they have gone to extensive lengths to hire a local for a job before going overseas to find a suitable candidate.

The three Coalition senators who authored the dissenting report – deputy chair Gary Humphries, Sue Boyce and Michaelia Cash – demanded the prime minister’s office release all documentation surrounding Mr McTernan’s hiring.

“The prime minister should immediately and without further delay authorise the release of all documents relating to the appointment of her chief spin doctor, Mr John McTernan,” they wrote.

If Ms Gillard’s office did not release these details, the senators wrote, “the prime minister is culpable in attempting to deliberately cover up … ‘a case of abuse’ within her own office in relation to the 457 visa program”.

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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