The Australian Greens oppose the Migration Amendment
(Offshore Resources Activity) Repeal Bill 2014 (the Bill).
The legislation which this Bill seeks to repeal – the Migration
Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Act 2013 – was enacted in June 2013
to overcome the risk that foreign workers involved in the exploration and
exploitation of Australia's natural resources, and who therefore form part of
the Australian employment sector, are working under conditions and receiving
wages that are below Australian standards.
A failure to regulate this risk would result in a reduction
in work opportunities for Australian citizens and permanent residents, as well
as non-citizens who hold relevant visas which permit work. A further
consequence would be that businesses that only engage workers who hold valid
visas, would be placed at a competitive disadvantage.
In submissions to this inquiry, the Australian Maritime
Officers Union (AMOU), and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), have each
made cogent arguments as to the vital importance of the legislation this Bill
seeks to repeal.
The MUA points out the Migration Amendment (Offshore
Resources Activity) Act 2013 is necessary to protect Australian jobs from
exploitation by offshore resources companies, and to ensure overseas workers
receive Australian wages and employment conditions.
The AMOU argue that it is important to ensure that the
workers engaged on facilities in the 'Exclusive Economic Zone' enjoy
protections consistent with workers across Australia.
The AMOU further notes there is concern about the abuse of
the 457 visa in the offshore oil and gas industry. It states the decision to
issue 457 visas does not have sufficient regard to the availability of
Australians seeking work. It states that, while there are many Australian
workers who are available for the jobs, some vessels are almost completely
staffed with foreign workers.
The AMOU cites the irony that many of its unemployed members
are recent immigrants under the skills shortage visa program, who are now
subsisting on unemployment benefits because roles are filled by 457 visa
It cites anecdotal evidence that 457 visa holders engaged in
the offshore oil and gas industry are not being paid the same conditions of employment
as Australian seafarers.
The MUA notes that the government's rationale for this
legislation is specious. When introducing this Bill, the Minister for
Immigration and Border Protection stated it is necessary to remove the
requirement for overseas workers to hold a visa when working in the offshore
resources industry within the migration zone. Despite his assertions that the
Act should be repealed because it is unnecessary 'red tape', it increases the
regulatory burden on offshore operators and it significantly impacts businesses
and investors, there is no evidence to suggest that any of these grounds is
As with much policy, it is important to strike a careful
balance. In this case it is between supporting businesses and supporting and
protecting workers. The Australian Greens believe that this Bill, in repealing
the previous legislation, would not confer benefits which would outweigh the
risks the original legislation was enacted to overcome.
The Australian Greens recommend that the Senate rejects this
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page