Release type: Media Release


Ministerial Working Group to help protect vulnerable foreign workers


Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash
Minister for Employment
Minister for Women
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service

Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash has today established a Ministerial Working Group to consider further policy options to protect vulnerable foreign workers in Australia.

The establishment of this Working Group builds on the strong action the Coalition Government has taken to stamp out exploitation, particularly in relation to foreign workers.

“The Government has been resolute in our efforts to catch those seeking to take advantage of foreign workers, while also ensuring these workers are better educated about their rights while in Australia – however more must be done,” Minister Cash said.

The Ministerial Working Group Protecting Vulnerable Visa Holders, chaired by Minister Cash, will include the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Justice Michael Keenan MP and Small Business Minister and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer MP.

“Foreign workers are important contributors to the Australian workforce and we want to ensure they continue to view Australia as a great destination,” Minister Cash said.

“We know that foreign workers are potentially more vulnerable to workplace exploitation and as such we have a responsibility to investigate additional measures to ensure their protection.”

Minister Cash said the Australian Government is already taking concerted action to catch and penalise those who exploit foreign workers.

“This year the Government established Taskforce Cadena to investigate illegal practices in temporary visa programmes, including the activities of labour hire companies,” Minister Cash said.

“This Taskforce includes the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Fair Work Ombudsman, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and the Australian Taxation Office.”

Over the past three years the Fair Work Ombudsman has dealt with over 6,000 requests for assistance from visa holders and recovered more than $4 million in outstanding wages and entitlements.

Minister Cash said protecting foreign workers in Australia is a complex issue, cutting across workplace relations, migration and corporations laws.

“I am pleased my colleagues have agreed to undertake this important work to better coordinate actions across Government and look at what solutions our laws might offer to stamp out exploitation of these workers,” Minister Cash said.

“Should the Working Group determine changes to the Fair Work Act are required, these would be taken to the next election, consistent with the Coalition’s commitment made in 2013.”

The Government is committed to ensuring the Working Group will not create an extra burden on businesses.

“This Working Group will focus on getting fair outcomes for workers, not creating red tape and cost for businesses,” Minister Cash said.

“The Government’s message is very clear – the only businesses that should be concerned are those doing the wrong thing.”