A senate inquiry into Australian business’ use of temporary work visas has recommended significant tightening of the scheme. The ATCU argued that the current rules deny locals jobs and training opportunities, depress wages and allow businesses to exploit of temporary visa holders.
The report by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee recommends:
- Banning the use of ABNs to employ temporary visa holders
- Raising the income threshold for skilled migrants to $62,000 a year and indexing it annually
- Requiring industry bodies rather than bureaucrats conduct skills tests
- Requiring the government to provide evidence for occupations they want to open up to temporary visa holders
- Increasing TAFE funding for local workers
- Requiring more evidence for labour market testing to ensure locals are not being passed over for work
- Enabling workers representatives to bring civil cases for breaches of the rules by employers
- Ensuring people working in licensed occupations actually holds a valid Australian license
The ACTU argued for the earning threshold to be raised because there was a $26,000 salary gap between that employers could exploit to drive wages down by hiring temporary visa holders rather than hiring and training locally.
During hearings the committee heard that unlicensed backpackers were being employed to build solar farms in Queensland, and that the use of temporary visas in the meat industry had led to locals being denied work.
Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:
“People who live and pay tax in Australia permanently should be able to access job opportunities locally.
“And where genuine labour shortages exist, they should be filled where possible by permanent migrants, rather than easily exploited temporary visa holders.
“People who come to our country on temporary visas with work rights should not have to fear exploitation and abuse at the hands of unscrupulous employers, and businesses who want to hire locally and pay fairly should not have to compete with dodgy operators who bend and break the rules.
“This inquiry has found that our current rules are short-changing locals and allowing business to game the system to its own advantage, depressing wages and exploiting visitors to our country.
“We need to change the rules so locals have work and training opportunities and everyone who works in our country is treated and paid fairly.”