Thursday, 20 June 2013
Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013; Second Reading
I rise to speak against the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013. Firstly, what is the need for this bill? We have heard the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship claim that there were 10,000 rorts in the 457 visa. What an embarrassment! The minister has had to admit that he simply plucked that figure out of thin air. What sort of hopeless minister makes up figures without any evidence? Perhaps the minister for immigration has taken inspiration from the Treasurer, because that is how it seems this government works with so many things, and now the minister for immigration is simply plucking numbers out of thin air with no evidence.
The other reason we should be opposed to this bill is because of what the government has previously said. I would like to look at a few quotes from the former immigration minister, the honourable member for McMahon. In July 2011, the honourable member for McMahon, as the former immigration minister, said:
And anyone who tries to tell you the 457 visa program is not working, needs to take another look at the facts.
That is what the former immigration minister said. And here this government is telling us it is not working and that we need to change the legislation. The former immigration minister went further and in November 2011 he said:
… the temporary skilled migration program, the 457 visa, continues to play a vital role in supporting business and meeting immediate skills gaps.
These skilled workers are employed across a great variety of industries and work in many different occupations. The program has become international best practice …
International best practice!And yet this government wants to completely change the legislation. Further, in March last year, the former immigration minister said:
… statistics clearly show that the 457 visa program is working extremely well …
He went on in May, last year:
Skilled migrants are increasingly moving to growth regions and places where there is demand—they are complementing rather than competing with our domestic labour force
Complementing rather than competing with—the minister was right. He went on in September last year:
The 457 visa allows businesses to employ overseas workers in designated skills occupations only. The program cannot be used by business as a substitute for training and employing Australian workers.
Again, the minister is right. In January this year, the former immigration minister said:
The 457 visa program is designed to address genuine labour shortages that cannot be met from the Australian labour market and we believe we have this balance right.
I believe that the honourable member for McMahon had it right. I hope that he carefully considers his vote, when it comes, on this bill. If the honourable member for McMahon votes with this bill, he will be saying that everything he said as a minister was hopelessly wrong. I hope he considers his vote, stands up and does the right thing and sticks by his words.
Another reason to speak against this bill is because of what the industry groups have said. An unprecedented letter, a joint letter signed by the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia and the Migration Council Australia has warned against this legislation, and I quote directly from their letter:
We are greatly concerned by the lack of supporting evidence, damaging rhetoric and poor process associated with the proposed changes to the 457 visa scheme, along with the considerable risks posed for investment, job creation and economic growth.
… … …
The legislation risks undermining the capacity to fill identified skills gaps in a timely way without a proper assessment of whether there is a genuine problem to be solved.
The letter goes on:
The new regulations will reduce flexibility and waste time and resources for no discernible benefit.
Further, this legislation:
… will only serve to work against business investment and economic growth.
In this time, of all economic times, how can we bring legislation to this parliament that we are being warned by the leading industry groups will work against business investment and against economic growth? The letter concludes:
The unsubstantiated assertions and unhelpful and damaging rhetoric associated with the 457 scheme and this Bill are unwarranted and have been harmful to Australia's international reputation and business confidence. At a time when Australia ought to be pulling out all stops to ensure the economy is firing strongly on all fronts—which means being able to fill critical skills needs in a timely and efficient way—we should not be rushed into major labour market changes which risk discouraging investment, job creation and economic growth.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I put it to you: given the comments in that letter by the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia and the Migration Council Australia, this legislation should not and cannot pass this parliament.
Another argument against this bill is the refusal of the government to produce a regulatory impact statement. The reason we have that provision for legislation that is brought to this parliament is to ensure that our legislation is given due and proper consideration before it passes. Given the long, long list of this government's failures, with policy mistake after policy mistake, you would think the very last thing this government would do is abandon a regulatory impact statement, but that is exactly what this bill does.
So why is the government bringing this bill in? Why are we going down this track when industry tells us there is so much risk to the economy? We know why. It is simply a distraction and an diversion—one of those tricks: 'Look over there!'—hoping that the public take their eyes off the problems we have on our border. We are currently averaging 100 people a day arriving on boats. Just this year alone, we have seen 12,700 people arrive on unauthorised boats. That is three times the number for the same period last year. This problem is getting worse—and dramatically worse. In total, over 44,600 people have arrived on boats under Labor's failed policy. That is more than we can fit into the Sydney Cricket Ground. So we come up with this diversion to take the public's attention off the enormous problems and this government's failure; we come up with this legislation and the rhetoric, trying to demonise foreign workers, claiming that they are stealing Aussie jobs.
The government wants to demonise foreign workers and skilled migrants—these industrious new members of our society, people who pay their taxes, create wealth, help our businesses to win export contracts, which greatly contribute to our economy, and pay for their own health care. The government wants to attack those people and in the meantime is releasing tens of thousands of people into our community—people who have paid people smugglers to get to this country, having arrived without any documentation, are being released into our community. They are not allowed to work and not allowed to contribute to our society but are forced to sit around all day, drawing on social welfare and straining local health resources. Is there any clearer indication how wrong and muddleheaded, and how detrimental to our national interest, the policies of this government are?
Then there is the complete hypocrisy of this bill. We know that the Prime Minister's communications director is employed on a 457 visa. I have heard members on my side ask the questions: did the Prime Minister advertise widely for this job and for how long? What market testing did the Prime Minister do? I would like to defend the Prime Minister, because I believe there is simply no other Australian that could possibly fulfil this role in her office. Who could have thought up the genius of orchestrating the Australia Day riots? What mastermind would it take to have dreamt up the PM's Contiki tour of Western Sydney, staying at good old Rooty Hill? And what brilliance did it take to envisage the PM's attack last week on men wearing blue ties? Clearly, no Australian could come up with such genius policies in communications, so the PM's office rightly needed to employ someone on a 457 visa. Or perhaps, given that everything this government does turns to mud, there is no-one else, no other Australian in our nation, prepared to do the job.
What really concerns me in this debate are the arguments put forward by those on the other side, arguments simply based on a delusional socialist ideology that there are a limited number of jobs in the economy, all of which are somehow centrally planned and coordinated by all-knowing bureaucrats based here in Canberra. That delusion led them to believe that somehow when a skilled worker migrates to Australia and contributes to our economy, they are displacing an Australian worker. What the government does not understand is that jobs are created in our economy by entrepreneurs and risk-takers and that they are created by small, medium and large business in the private sector. When the business employs a skilled worker from overseas, they are not taking jobs—the opposite—they are creating wealth and thereby creating more employment and more wealth and more funds flowing from the taxpayers into government's central revenue in Australia. It is a good plan for Australia. So this proposed legislation which is being rushed through without the proper consultation will simply tie these businesses up with more red tape. It gives them a disincentive to go out and take that risk. In doing so, you are not protecting Australian jobs; you are doing the exact opposite. This legislation will destroy Australian jobs. It will make fewer employment opportunities.
Not only is this legislation based on faulty ideology, not only is it dangerous to our nation's economic prosperity, its true danger is its danger to our nation's social cohesiveness. To falsely, misleadingly and mistakenly frame this debate as one of Aussie workers versus foreign skilled workers is a very dangerous track for this nation to head down.
In the short time I have left, the other reason this legislation must be opposed is the so-called 'market testing'. It is no wonder. We have a government on the other side that is completely dominated by trade union officials. How many members of this government have actually gone out there in a competitive market, taken on a contract to supply goods and services within a tight time frame, and faced the risk of liquidated damages if there was any delay? How many members of this government actually understand what it is like to be in business and to risk their own capital? I would say none.
Maybe in some centrally-controlled Canberra bureaucracy where you can sit around for six months and undertake a six-month market testing regime, you can do it, but the private sector does not have this luxury. If we bring this legislation in, it ties business up in red tape. It will cost jobs.
In conclusion, the coalition will not and cannot support this bill. We are seeking its referral to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. The coalition members remain consistent on our policies on 457 visas, and will be strong on policing our immigration laws, our borders, the community and the workplace. We oppose this appalling legislation.