SUBMISSION TO THE JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON MIGRATION REGARDING THE INQUIRY INTO THE WORKING HOLIDAY MAKER PROGRAM
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
Recommendation 1. Condition 8547 (Not work for one employer for more than 6 months) should be lifted to uphold WHMs’ and young residents’ work rights, prevent job market distortions, and stop the culture of non-compliance. The choice between work and holiday should be that of each WHM.
Recommendation 2. Extension of WHM visas should not be contingent on the satisfaction of the specified regional work requirement to address the exploitation of WHM labour but on the declaration of having abiding by Australian laws including the Migration Act 1958 and the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.
Recommendation 3. The social safety net, especially the Fair Entitlement Guarantee and Medicare access, should be extended to all temporary migrant workers for equity, fairness, and the safety of the entire society.
Recommendation 4. The 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.
Recommendation 5. Criminal sanctions should be introduced against serious forms of wage theft. There should be additional penalties for contraventions made disproportionately against temporary migrant workers.
Recommendation 6. Employers knowingly influencing or coercing WHMs and other migrant workers into breaching their visa conditions should be regulated and sanctioned. There should be additional penalties for employers who make contraventions of the Fair Work Act 2009 in combination with the Migration Act 1958.
Recommendation 7. The Government should establish a visa with work rights to extend the stay of WHMs and other 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.
Recommendation 8. No breaches of visa-specific work conditions suspected or identified should provide a ground for cancelling the worker’s current visa or denying a subsequent visa. A clear and strong firewall between the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Home Affairs should be created by reinforcing the existing Assurance Protocol to protect WHMs who are victims of wage theft and whistle-blowers.
Recommendation 9. The Fair Work Act 2009 should be amended to give the Fair Work Ombudsman power to investigate wage theft allegations and undertake more litigations against non-compliant employers and to provide trade unions with improved rights of entry.
Recommendation 10. Courts and tribunals should be reformed to enable fast and affordable avenues for all workers to recover stolen wages and superannuation. An Industrial Court should be established through which WHMs can pursue wage and superannuation theft claims in a timely manner.
Recommendation 11. Industries with large non-compliance records such as horticulture and labour hire should be thoroughly regulated and contraventions prosecuted. The Government should introduce a national labour hire licensing scheme that replicates the best-practice requirements of the Queensland and Victorian state schemes.
Recommendation 12. Civil society organisations including trade unions, migrant community organisations, and community legal centres should be assisted with adequate funding to extend their services to WHMs and meet their social, economic, and cultural needs.