Oversight of the management of work rights of temporary entrants into Australia is broken and needs fixing.
Let’s look at some of these major temporary residence areas.
Even though the number has declined in the last year or two ,at June 2016, there were 94,890 sponsored 457 visa holders in Australia. These visas are generally valid for four years. We know there is widespread use and abuse particularly in the services and IT areas.. Government contractors like IBM of recent census fame and HP are major uses of 457 visas. There is so-called labour market testing (LMT) that employers have to undertake to test the market before applying for 457 visa entrance. We know however that LMT is largely a farce with token advertising designed to prove that suitable labour is not available. There is no ‘official’ skilled labor market list and there is no independent assessment of employer actions.
The best way to curb 457 abuses is to substantially increase the fee that employers have to pay to access this program. The current fee of $330 is not likely to have any effect in deterring some dodgy employers. A fee based on say 10% of the annual salary would force employers to look more carefully about using the 457 visa system.
At 30th June 2016, there were 137,376 working holiday makers in Australia. See ‘JOHN MENADUE. Our working Holiday Programs have lost their way’. As set out in that article, the Fair Work Ombudsman has drawn attention to widespread exploitation and abuse in the working holiday programs. The FWO said that there is underpayment and non-payment of wages; sexual harassment and workplace health and safety issues; exploitative workforce cultures and behaviours in isolated and remote workplaces; employers and hostels withholding passports without authority; and employers engaging in sophisticated labour supply chains involving sham contracting, with visa holders being engaged as contractors and not employees.
The working holiday programs have seriously departed from their original objective – cultural exchanges for young people – and have become cheap labour programs for many employers.
In August this year, there were 620,000 overseas students enrolled in Australia, most with limited rights to work. These students have brought major social and economic benefits for Australia. But in the clamour to increase student numbers there is concern about exploitation of these hundreds of thousands of overseas students who have limited rights to work.
For political reasons the government is focused on boat arrivals and punishing asylum seekers in offshore detention. Stopping a handful of unarmed asylum seekers with the largest naval deployment since WW2 -‘the ring of steel’-takes a lot of resources!. As a result, the focus has shifted from effectively monitoring programs – 457s, working holidays and students – to ensure there is compliance with the intentions of the programs.
If there is one group in Australia that should be allowed to work, it is the 30,000 asylum seekers who have been released from detention and are living in the community, but in most cases are not allowed to work. This is a denial of their dignity and the contribution that they could and would like to make to Australia. But in the name of deterrents, the government punishes these people and denies them the opportunity for a dignified life in employment.
Our 1.2 million temporary residents in Australia make considerable contributions to this country. But the programs need serious repair. And it is not just the 7/11 Chain. Abuse is widespread.
Oversight of the management of work rights of temporary entrants in Australia is broken and needs fixing.