The Migration Amendment (Skilling Australians Fund) Bill 2017 and the Migration (Skilling Australians Fund) Charges Bill 2017 (the bills) were introduced into the House of Representatives on 18 October 2017 by the Hon Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.
On 16 November 2017, the Senate referred the provisions of the bill to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee (the committee) for inquiry and report by 9 February 2018.
Conduct of the inquiry
Details of the inquiry were made available on the committee's website. The committee also contacted a number of organisations inviting submissions to the inquiry. Submissions were received from 21 organisations, as detailed at Appendix 1.
The committee held one public hearing in Canberra on 30 January 2018.
The witness list for this hearing can be found at Appendix 2.
Compatibility with human rights
The statements of compatibility with human rights for each bill stated that the bills are compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.
The Law Council of Australia (Law Council) made mention of the possible discriminatory effect of the changes to labour market testing (LMT) proposed in the Migration Amendment (Skilling Australians Fund) Bill 2017, an issue flagged in the explanatory memorandum to the bill. The Law Council noted that in allowing employers to only nominate a foreign worker if a suitable Australian worker had not been found, subject to exemptions, the LMT framework engages the right to non‑discrimination.
However, the Law Council submission concluded:
...the right to non-discrimination is derogable. Further, it may be necessary to treat people differently to achieve equality. Differential treatment does not always amount to prohibited discrimination if the criteria for the differentiation is reasonable, objective, and achieves a purpose deemed legitimate under the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights].
The Law Council is satisfied that the proposed changes to LMT do not equate to unreasonable differentiation, nor are they in conflict with the principle of equality.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights also observed that the two bills did not raise any human rights concerns.
Scrutiny of Bills Committee
The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills (Scrutiny of Bills Committee) considered the Migration Amendment (Skilling Australians Fund) Bill 2017 in its Scrutiny Digest 13 of 2017. The Scrutiny of Bills Committee sought the Minister's advice as to why the bill proposes delegating to the regulations the power to impose a penalty in relation to the underpayment of a nomination training contribution charge without setting an upper limit in relation to the penalty.
The Scrutiny of Bills Committee also considered the Migration (Skilling Australians Fund) Charges Bill 2017 in its Scrutiny Digest 13 of 2017 and had no comment on the bill.
Financial Impact Statement
The financial impact statements for the bills noted that the training contribution charge is expected to generate revenue of $1.2 billion over the forward estimates. Expected expenditure from the Skilling Australians Fund over the forward estimates is $1.47 billion.
The committee thanks those organisations who contributed to this inquiry by preparing written submissions and giving evidence at the public hearing.
References in this report to the Hansard for the public hearing are to the Proof Hansard. Please note that page numbers may vary between the proof and official transcripts.