Monday, 21 October 2019
Customs Amendment (Growing Australian Export Opportunities Across the Asia-Pacific) Bill 2019, Customs Tariff Amendment (Growing Australian Export Opportunities Across the Asia-Pacific) Bill 2019; Consideration in Detail
I move amendment (2) as circulated in my name:
(2) Clause 2, pages 2 and 3, table items 2 to 4, omit the table items, substitute:
As we've seen, there's been a vote in this House that says Labor and Liberal want the deals to go ahead. Okay; we voted against that, but we are now in a situation where it is going ahead. Because these deals don't allow you to go back and renegotiate individual terms—which is a flaw in the process, but that's where we're at—we now have to take the agreement, as it seems, on its face. One of the things we can do, though, is say, 'Some problems with it have been raised, including around what's called labour market testing, which means advertising for jobs locally before allowing the use of classes of visas or provisions under this agreement; we want you to go back and negotiate something else before we enter into this.' That's what we should do.
Many, many people have raised the very legitimate point that, under these agreements, what you do is open up whole new categories of people who are able to be brought here through the loopholes without there having to be local advertising first. I want to be clear: there is nothing inherently wrong with saying, 'Let's have people who live overseas come here and have a chance to work.' Of course that can happen. But most people in this country would think, as a basic matter of principle, that you advertise locally first to check there's no-one available who wants the job or who could do the job with a reasonable amount of training. But what we've found under these agreements that have happened so far is that once you start opening up categories of people like contractual service suppliers, as are referred to in previous agreements like ChAFTA and are referred to in this as well, and give them the fast track around all of Australia's labour laws, they end up coming here and working in exploitative below local wages and conditions. That is terrible for them. That is terrible for those people. I've even seen it in my electorate. They get brought here under a visa where the employer is able to say: 'You've got to do what we say because your ability to stay in this country depends on me. If you don't do what I say then I, as the employer, will deport you. We'll organise for you to be deported by revoking your visa.'
So what has happened? In Victoria, for example, on our power networks—the poles and wires that bring electricity to people—it cannot be said that there is a shortage of local workers available to do that kind of work, but we have seen instances of the big corporations bringing in people to do things like line maintenance at below local wages and conditions. These poor workers are told, 'If you speak up about it, we'll deport you.' In Richmond, in my electorate, they were building apartment blocks where they had people installing lift stackers—as if you can't find someone here to do it. People are working on construction projects more broadly across Australia, and they're getting paid about half of what people locally would get paid, and they're being forced to sleep in places where there are many to a room. None of us would put up with that.
Why are they doing it? They're doing it because they're brought out here on these promises of great deals, and then they're told, 'If you speak up, if you go to a union, if you speak to anyone else, you're on the next plane back.' Why does that happen? It happens because there are not provisions in place that require proper testing of the labour market here—proper, decent advertising of local jobs. After you've been through that process, if you still can't find someone, there's probably no-one in this country who would object to you saying, 'We'll bring in someone else if no-one here is willing to do it.' But the point is that these agreements circumvent all of that. They now put in place new categories where it is clear the labour market testing does not apply with the kind of rigour it should.
The government will say: 'It's okay. We've got safeguards in place and we've just written a letter to the Labor Party'—which they've been foolish enough to accept as being worth something, even though it's just a letter that doesn't actually mean anything—'that says, "It's okay; existing provisions will continue to apply."' (Time expired)