Senate backs Greens working visa inquiry

Greens Deputy Leader and workplace relations spokesperson Adam Bandt MP said today the Senate has backed the creation of a broad-ranging Senate inquiry into Australia's working visa system, including the use of 457 visas.

“The Senate today has gotten behind our push for a landmark inquiry into the working visa system,” Mr Bandt said.

"With rising unemployment and a mining investment boom coming off the boil, now is the time to ask whether the current working visa system strikes the right balance."

"Youth unemployment is now at 14% and we're not investing enough into training or creating sustainable jobs.”

"We may wake up when the mining boom is over to find out that we've missed an opportunity to skill up locals.”

"And with persistent reports of overseas workers being exploited, there is a very real risk that we are carving out whole areas where Australian minimum conditions aren't being enforced.”

"In the last Parliament, the Greens raised concerns about the use of working visas and secured protections for local nurses and engineers.”

"There will always be a place for skilled migration and working visas, but there must be strong protections to ensure that neither locals nor overseas workers are exploited.”

"The Greens worked with Labor on the terms of reference for this broad-ranging inquiry and we look forward to learning more about the impacts of the working visa system upon its report.”

The inquiry is set to report by 22 June 2015.

The motion was moved by Senators Janet Rice and Doug Cameron and passed with 37 votes for and 31 against. Text of the motion is below.

Media contact: Adam Pulford, 0429 109 054


That the following matters be referred to the Education and Employment References Committee for inquiry and report by 22 June 2015:

(1)    The impact of Australia’s temporary work visa programs on the Australian labour market and on the temporary work visa holders, with particular reference to: 

(a)    the wages, conditions, safety and entitlements of Australian workers and temporary work visa holders including:

(i)                  whether the programs ‘carve out’ groups of employees from Australian labour and safety laws, and

(ii)                if so, to what extent this threatens the integrity of such laws;

(b)   the employment opportunities for Australians, including:

(i)                  the effectiveness of the labour market testing provisions (the provisions) of the Migration Act 1958 in protecting employment opportunities for Australian citizens and permanent residents,

(ii)                whether the provisions need to be strengthened to improve the protection of employment opportunities for Australian citizens and permanent residents, and

(iii)               if so, how this could be achieved;

(c)    the adequacy of publicly available information about the operation of the provisions;

(d)   the nature of current exemptions from the provisions and what effect these exemptions have on the reach and coverage of labour market testing obligations and laws regarding wages, conditions and entitlements of Australian workers and temporary work visa holders;

(2)    The impact of Australia's temporary work visa programs on training and skills development in Australia, including:

(a)    the adequacy of current obligations on 457 visa sponsoring employers to provide training opportunities for Australian citizens and permanent residents, and

(b)   how these obligations could be strengthened and improve, and

(c)    the effect on the skills base of the permanent Australian workforce;

(3)    Whether temporary work visa holders receive the same wages, conditions, safety and other entitlements as their Australian counterparts or in accordance with the law, including:

(a)    the extent of any exploitation and mistreatment of temporary work visa holders, such as sham contracting, debt bondage with exorbitant interest rate payments, and

(b)   the role of recruitment agents,

(c)    the adequacy of information provided to temporary work visa holders on their rights and obligations in their workplace and community and how it can be improved,

(4)    Whether temporary work visa holders have access to the same benefits and entitlements available to Australian citizens and permanent residents and whether any differences are justified and consistent with international conventions relating to migrant workers;

(5)    The adequacy of the monitoring and enforcement of the temporary work visa programs and their integrity, including:

(a)    the wages, conditions and entitlements of temporary work visa holders;

(b)   cases of 457 visa fraud, such as workers performing duties outside or below the job classification of the visa;

(6)    the role and effect of English language requirements in limited and temporary work visa programs;

(7)    whether the provisions and concessions made for designated area migration agreements, enterprise migration agreements, and labour agreements affect the integrity of the 457 visa program, or affect any other matter covered in these terms of reference;

(8)    the relationship between the temporary 457 visa and other temporary visa types with work rights attached to them;

(9)    in conducting the inquiry, the committee shall review the findings and recommendations of previous inquiries into such matters, including the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee's report entitled Framework and operation of subclass 457 Visas, Enterprise Migration Agreements and Regional Migration Agreements; and

(10)any related matter.