The Albanese Government of Australia is taking decisive action to protect migrant workers at risk of exploitation by unscrupulous employers who target temporary visa holders. Disturbing statistics reveal that one in six recent migrant workers to Australia is paid below the minimum wage, perpetuating a cycle of harm that affects not only individual workers but also wages and conditions for all Australians.
Australian employers who exploit migrant workers will face strict consequences, including bans on hiring other visa holders and new criminal penalties. These measures aim to combat the pervasive issue of worker exploitation and ensure fair treatment for all individuals in the labor market.
In a significant departure from the policies of former Liberal Government, the Albanese Government said that it was determined to rectify the situation and address the failures to implement crucial recommendations from the Migrant Workers Taskforce Report.
After an extensive eight-month consultation period, the government is unveiling a comprehensive package of measures, including legislative powers, enforcement tools, increased funding, and an empowering approach to support those trapped in exploitative workplaces.
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles, will introduce legislation into Parliament in the coming weeks, targeting unscrupulous employers with penalties and criminal offences. The proposed measures encompass making it a criminal offence to coerce visa holders into breaching their conditions, employing prohibition notices to halt further hiring of exploited migrants, escalating penalties and compliance tools, and repealing section 235 of the Migration Act, which has hindered the reporting of exploitative behaviour.
To strengthen enforcement efforts, the Albanese Government has allocated $50 million in funding to enhance the resources of the Australian Border Force for enforcement and compliance activities. Furthermore, the government aims to bolster protections for temporary visa holders who speak out against exploitation.
Consultations with businesses, unions, and civil society will be conducted to develop whistleblower protections and establish a more robust separation between the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Home Affairs.
Minister for Workplace Relations and Employment Tony Burke reiterated the government’s unwavering commitment to eradicating worker exploitation.
He condemned the previous government’s negligence in failing to take action and pledged to rectify the situation. Burke emphasized that worker exploitation is unacceptable in any circumstance and affirmed the government’s dedication to stamping it out.
Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil stressed the need for systemic changes in the migration system to protect both workers and businesses. She expressed grave concern over the former government’s indifference, which “allowed widespread exploitation to occur unchecked”. O’Neil reassured the public that the Albanese Government is resolute in its commitment to ensuring that no individual who comes to Australia is subjected to exploitation or abuse, actively working towards comprehensive reforms.
Minister Andrew Giles drew attention to the crisis of exploitation, highlighting that up to one in six recent migrants receives less than the minimum wage. He underscored the far-reaching impact of this issue on all workers, as it drives down wages and erodes working conditions. Giles criticized the former Liberal government for disregarding the safety of migrant workers and expressed confidence that the proposed reforms would empower workers to report exploitation while targeting unscrupulous employers.
This initiative towards protecting migrant workers, exploited workers and creating a fair and just working environment for all Australians, signals a significant shift toward greater accountability and support for the most vulnerable members of the labour market.