16 October 2012

Government promises to clarify Australia visa status for offshore projects

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Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has announced the government will be legislating to finally clarify the Australia visa status of foreign workers employed on offshore projects.

Australia visa

The projects involve large vessels laying pipe in the Australian seabed.

The row centres on whether workers employed on vessels in Australian waters require an appropriate Australia visa to do so. The Migration Act which defines which circumstances require which visas does not make the case clear.

The argument reached a peak in April this year when progress on a multi-billion dollar offshore resource project was halted after it emerged the workers on the project only had tourist or business visas.

The company in charge of the project, Allseas Construction, sued the Australian government and won, allowing work to resume.

The project angered Australian unions as Allseas freely admitted employing foreign workers on tourist and business visas meant they could offer lower wages and worse conditions.

Allseas has since agreed to begin work on another project in Australian waters, prompting Mr Bowen to ensure a similar argument does not arise.

"The government will legislate to rectify the current situation," said Mr Bowen. "We want to ensure the rights of workers in the offshore resources industry are appropriately protected, while at the same time promoting opportunities for Australians to work on important local resource projects."

"The review will seek to create legislative certainty and to promote offshore industry investment while balancing broader community expectations about Australia's jurisdiction over its resources and maritime zones.

"The exploration of the natural resources of Australia's offshore maritime zones contributes significantly to our economy and employs thousands of Australians."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.

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