Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash and the Minister for Immigration, the Hon Peter Dutton MP have today welcomed the progress made by the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce, led by Professor Allan Fels AO.
The Taskforce has held its second meeting, bringing together representatives from a range of government agencies and stakeholder groups to address the issue of migrant worker exploitation.
The meeting discussed its key priorities for better communication with visa holders, stronger enforcement, prevention and redress of exploitation, and ensuring that policy frameworks and regulatory settings are right.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Industry Group and the National Farmers’ Federation attended the meeting and provided valuable insights for the Taskforce to consider.
Key outcomes from the Taskforce’s meeting include:
• a new reporting protocol agreed between the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for visa holders
• an anonymous online reporting channel specifically designed for migrant workers and translated into key languages, and
• new, joint research to test the most effective way of communicating with visa holders to ensure messaging on workplace entitlements is simple, clear and useful.
The Taskforce also agreed that while a general amnesty from migration law is not appropriate, where temporary visa holders with a work entitlement attached to their visa may have been exploited (and provided they have reported their circumstances to the Fair Work Ombudsman), the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will generally not cancel a visa, detain or remove those individuals from Australia, providing:
• the visa holder commits to abiding by visa conditions in the future; and
• there is no other basis for visa cancellation (such as on national security, character, health or fraud grounds).
For any temporary visa holder who has no work entitlement attached to their visa, the Department will make no commitment other than to consider each case on its merits.
The Turnbull Government has provided the Fair Work Ombudsman with an additional $20.1 million over four years to further assist vulnerable workers, including migrant workers.
The Government will soon deliver on the final element of its election commitment to protect vulnerable workers by introducing new provisions and increasing maximum fines under the Fair Work Act, and new powers for the Fair Work Ombudsman.
While the overwhelming majority of employers comply with workplace laws, the message to those who seek to exploit their workers is very clear: such behaviour will not be tolerated by this Government. Such employers will be targeted, investigated and penalised.
A public statement on the second meeting of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce has been issued by Professor Allan Fels AO and is available here: https://www.employment.gov.au/chairs-public-statement-february-2017