SUBMISSION TO THE JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON MIGRATION ON THE INQUIRY INTO AUSTRALIA’S SKILLED MIGRATION PROGRAM
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
ACCESS TO PERMANENT RESIDENCY
RECOMMENDATION 1. All holders of employer-sponsored temporary skilled visas should be given a clearer pathway to permanent residency as recommended by this Committee. They should be allowed to combine local employment experience with different employers toward meeting the minimum three-year local experience required for the Temporary Residence Transition stream of
subclasses 186 and 187.
RECOMMENDATION 2. The employer-sponsorship system should be abolished or limited to an absolute necessity of temporary skilled visas. The Temporary Residence Transition stream of subclasses 186 and 187 should be reformed to allow holders of employer-sponsored temporary skilled visas to access it through a state/territory-government sponsorship instead of an employer sponsorship.
RECOMMENDATION 3. The new permanent visa (subclass 191) should be a pathway for long term temporary migrant workers of all visa subclasses who have contributed to the economy and made strong ties to Australia.
RECOMMENDATION 4. Visa conditions and eligibility requirements should be designed to create organic pathways from temporary to permanent visas. As a matter of priority, subclasses 476 and 485 graduate visas should allow recent graduates to stay at least three years and gain required employment experience.
RECOMMENDATION 5. Migrant workers on temporary skilled employer-sponsored visas should be provided with at least 90 days to find another sponsor in the event of termination of their original employer sponsorship.
RECOMMENDATION 6. The federal government should replace labour agreements with businesses that subordinate migrant workers to their employers with ones with regional governments that facilitate the settlement of temporary migrant workers and the development of regional Australia.
RECOMMENDATION 7. The federal government should explore the benefits of adopting a government-to-government mechanism for overseas skill recruitment.
RECOMMENDATION 8. The federal government should introduce an overseas skill search portal website integrated with the Department of Home Affairs’ ImmiAccount website, the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website, and unions’ websites to prevent any loopholes of contraventions in the skilled migration program.
RECOMMENDATION 9. Building on this Committee’s recommendation on improving visa process transparency, we recommend allocating more resources to visa processing and providing visa applicants with more frequent and detailed updates on visa processing via the Department of Home Affairs’ ImmiAccount webpage.
RECOMMENDATION 10. The federal government should establish a genuinely tripartite, independent, and transparent body with responsibility and commensurate funding that can provide objective evidence-based advice to the government on matters pertaining to skills shortages, training needs, workforce capacity and planning, and labour migration. The tripartite body should have a balanced representation from businesses, unions, and the federal government.
RECOMMENDATION 11. All gazetted occupation lists should accurately reflect Australia’s current employment challenges as recommended by this Committee. State/territorial governments should invite businesses to register vacancies and develop occupation lists based on genuine skill shortages.
RECOMMENDATION 12. A clear and strong firewall between the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Home Affairs should be created by making comprehensive improvements to the existing Assurance Protocol to protect wage theft victims and whistle-blowers. When a migrant worker reports wage theft, any breaches of visa-specific work conditions should not provide a ground for cancelling the worker’s current visa or denying a subsequent visa.
RECOMMENDATION 13. The federal government should establish a bridging visa with work rights to extend the stay of temporary migrant workers who are victims of workplace exploitation, harassment, or injury and enable them to access justice in court, compensation, or medical/psychological treatment.
PROTECTION OF MIGRANT WORKERS’ WORKPLACE RIGHTS
RECOMMENDATION 14. The federal government should proactively disseminate the message that the standards under the Fair Work Act 2009 apply to every worker equally, irrespective of their residency or visa status. Information about workplace rights, including the right to access and join a union, should be delivered in community languages, upon issuing any visa with work rights.
RECOMMENDATION 15. Local governments should facilitate migrant workers’ follow-up education upon arrival in collaboration with trade unions and community legal centres to offer online or offline workplace rights workshops in community languages.
RECOMMENDATION 16. The federal government should protect the entitlements of every worker in the face of liquidation by amending the Fair Entitlements Guarantee Act 2012 and extending the eligibility to make a claim under the Act to all, irrespective of their residency or visa status. Access to Medicare should also be expanded to cover workers on temporary visas.
RECOMMENDATION 17. A national labour hire licensing scheme should be introduced to address the prevalence of exploitation of migrant workers through indirect engagement and to better protect their workplace rights by establishing a national licensing regime for labour hire firms by replicating and scaling up the best practice requirements of the Queensland and Victorian state schemes.
RECOMMENDATION 18. Employers and their directors with records of exploitation or contribution to exploiting migrant workers should be disqualified to sponsor migrant workers in the future. Employers knowingly influencing or coercing migrant workers into breaching their visa conditions should be regulated and sanctioned.
RECOMMENDATION 19. Criminal sanctions should be introduced against serious forms of wage theft. The onus of proof should be reversed when employers have breached payslip and record keeping obligations. Falsifying or failing to keep employee records should also be criminalised. Additional penalties should be introduced against contraventions made disproportionately against migrant workers.
RECOMMENDATION 20. Migration agents’ adherence to the code of conduct should be actively regulated. Those knowingly facilitating fraudulent employment arrangements or labour exploitation should be disqualified.
RECOMMENDATION 21. Education agents should be regulated not to provide migration advice or contribute to the exploitation of migrant workers. When found guilty of breaching the Fair Work Act 2009 or the Migration Act 1958 directly or indirectly through their education agents, education service providers should be deregistered from the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS).
RECOMMENDATION 22. Courts and tribunals should be reformed to enable fast and simple avenues for all workers to recover stolen wages.
RECOMMENDATION 23. At federal, state, and local levels, no public contracts should be awarded to businesses that have any record of wage theft.