30 September 2008

Senator Evans signs agreement to protect 457 visa holders

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Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Senator Chris Evans signed an agreement with WorkCover NSW to protect overseas workers in Australia on 457 visas.

The agreement, signed Tuesday, allows the names and addresses of employers of 457 visa holders to be exchanged, as well as information regarding workplace safety issues, reports MSN News.

Senator Evans told reporters the agreement was necessary as the number of temporary Australian visa holders is growing rapidly, and the number of businesses hiring 457 visa holders is also increasing. 

Senator Evans said the government and organisations will be putting extra pressure on businesses to meet their obligations as employers of 457 visa holders, or they will face the penalties.

"We are watching you closely and if you don't meet your immigration or workplace obligations, you will attract the attention of a number of government agencies," he told reporters in Sydney.

The Minister also announced this month a new Bill has been introduced to Parliament.  The new bill affects all those workers on the temporary long-stay (Subclass 457) visa, which allows employers to sponsor overseas workers so that they may work and live temporarily in Australia.  During 200-08, around 60,000 of these Australian visas were granted to foreign workers.

"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 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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