25 September 2008

DIAC introduces new Bill to protect rights of overseas workers

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Senator Chris Evans announced yesterday a new Bill has been introduced into the Senate that is designed to protect the rights of foreign temporary workers.

The new Bill affects all those workers on the temporary long-stay (Subclass 457) visa, which allows employers to sponsor overseas workers to work and live temporarily in Australia.  During 2007-08, around 60,000 foreign workers were granted a 457 visa so that employers suffering from a labour shortage could access offshore resources. 

"The resources boom, low levels of unemployment, and the failure of the previous government to invest in the education and training of our own people, have contributed to endemic skills shortages across the country," said Senator Evans.

The Migration Legislation Amendment (Worker Protection) Bill 2008 will protect workers from exploitation by increasing the powers to monitor and investigate employers for exploitation, introduce harsh penalties for employers found breaching their labour agreements, improving information sharing throughout government departments, and clearly defining the obligations of the sponsor and employer.

The increased powers will mean departmental officers will be specifically trained for workplace investigation.  Employers found not complying with their obligations according to the labour agreement can be fined up to $33,000 or be barred from further sponsorship of overseas workers.  The Commissioner of Taxation will now also have the power to provide the DIAC with tax information regarding visa holders and sponsors so that the government can ensure 457 visa holders are being paid to Australian standards.

"The temporary working visa scheme is only sustainable if the community is confident that overseas workers are not being exploited or used to undermine local wages and conditions," Senator Evans added.

Over the next financial year, $19.6 million will be allocated to improving the temporary skilled migration program.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people apply for an Australia visa.

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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