House debates

Monday, 24 June 2013


Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013; Second Reading

7:51 pm

Photo of Natasha GriggsNatasha Griggs (Solomon, Country Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013. Admittedly, there is some confusion here on this side of the House: along with my colleagues, I was under the impression that Australia's biggest immigration issue was the fact that 734 boats have been intercepted entering Australian waters since the Labor government came to power in 2007. But it appears that the Gillard Labor government may have missed those 734 boats. Those on the other side of the House seem to think that the 457 visa program is our most pressing immigration issue. Maybe you could tell them, Mr Deputy Speaker Murphy, that they should take time to speak to people in my electorate of Solomon and, indeed, in the Northern Territory. Territorians will tell you that recently there have been 19 illegal boats headed for the Top End, and that is more of a concern for my community than the 457 visa holders.

The Gillard Labor government are attempting to rush through this attack on our skilled migration program before the parliament rises, at the end of this week, oblivious to the public's outrage at the billions of dollars they have wasted on their own failed border protection policies. In their cover-up of this immigration disaster, the Labor government have belittled and harassed overseas workers. The Gillard Labor government have members of their own staff working on 457 visas, including in the Prime Minister's office. Talk about double standards!

I wonder how the Gillard Labor government's own overseas workers feel when the Prime Minister attempts to demonise and stereotype them at every turn? The Gillard Labor government's attacks on skilled migration is a desperate distraction from the biggest immigration issue we have faced—their failed border protection policies which have seen, as I have said, 734 boats with 44,946 people arrive unannounced in our waters.

Since Prime Minister Gillard assumed office three years ago today, there have been 38,340 illegal arrivals arrive here by boat. That is over half of my electorate and more than the entire population of the City of Palmerston. This chaos, disarray and absolute pandemonium is also met with great sadness and tragedy. It is horrific that over a thousand illegal arrivals have drowned while trying to reach our shore. These thousand people were led to believe that they could achieve a better way of life for their families by hopping on a leaky boat bound for Australia, only to meet their end on their way here.

The Labor government needs to look at the problem before they sink their teeth into the 457 visa program and rip it apart. As I said earlier, there are mixed messages among the rabble on the other side. The former minister for immigration, Mr Bowen, said on 3 September 2012:

The 457 visa allows businesses to employ overseas workers in designated skilled occupations only. The program cannot be used by a business as a substitute for training and employing Australian workers.

As I said, in the Territory we do things a little bit differently. Many business operators have told me that they rely very heavily on the 457 visa program to retain a skilled workforce in the midst of big demand from business and booming major projects around Darwin and Palmerston. Local business operators tell me that they are afraid of the Gillard Labor government's attack on any skilled migration program as they often struggle to fill positions within our local workforce.

One small business operator I spoke to recently has owned a business in Darwin for 20 years. She attributes the strength of her business success to the 457 visa program. She says that without this program it would have been extremely difficult for her to retain semiskilled workers. She told me that the 457 visa program provided both security and stability for her staff and her as an employer. Before she employed overseas workers she found it very difficult to find semiskilled workers to run her small business. With the number of major projects in the Territory at the moment it is becoming even more difficult for hard-working small businesses to compete for local workers against conditions and wages offered by larger corporations. The skilled migration program has allowed small business to access a workforce that can fill the gaps left in the local market by the major projects that are happening right across the Territory.

As you can imagine, this bill has generated only further unpredictability for small businesses in these uncertain economic times. The deep concern they feel is resonating throughout the coalition. After investigation into this legislation we have found some serious flaws within the bill, not the least the fact that it has no regulatory impact statement and there has been no proper consultation. You might find that very hard to believe, that the Labor Party is not consulting, but, believe me, it has happened. This bill contains a bizarre attempt to re-introduce labour market testing which operated from 1996 to 2001, when it was found to be highly ineffective, very expensive, a significant delay and one of many setbacks for employers' recruitment action.

I would like to share some more hypocrisy on the 457 visas from those on the other side. The Prime Minister's press release titled 'Changes to the ministry' in Canberra of 2 February 2013 stated:

As Immigration Minister, Senator Evans shaped the temporary and permanent skilled migration system to serve our economy and restored integrity to the 457 visa program.

Well, a lot has changed in a few months because now they are saying that it has been rorted and all sorts of other mixed messages.

We can all agree that what small business in Australia does not need is more red tape. This bill adds to the burden of regulation, obligations, compliance and enforcement on employer sponsors using the 457 visa program. This bill represents the Gillard Labor government's and the unions' scare campaign in an attempt to demonise foreign workers. Most concerning about this bill is that it is based on a false premise. The Gillard Labor government has completely manufactured numbers to suggest widespread abuse of the 457 visa program.

As I said, just a few months ago the Prime Minister was saying, and I will repeat that quote:

As Immigration Minister, Senator Evans shaped the temporary and permanent skilled migration system to serve our economy and restored integrity to the 457 visa program.

Under Labor, 457 skilled migration visa grants have grown to the highest level since its inception, so if any rorts have occurred they have occurred under Labor's watch.


No comments