Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Migration Amendment (Charging for a Migration Outcome) Bill 2015; In Committee

5:32 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Looking at the amendments as circulated by the opposition, the Greens support them. We need to be clear here that we too are very concerned about the exploitation of people on those more short-term working visas or student visas. They are indeed some of the most vulnerable people working in our community and some of the most vulnerable noncitizens working in our community.

How much more evidence do we need than the scandal from 7-Eleven? I know it was a little bit of a Freudian slip by the Leader of the Opposition in one of his interviews, where he referred to 7-Eleven as Subway, but the issue here is surely that we would be naive to think that this type of exploitation of workers only happens within the 7-Eleven chain and franchises. We know that there are employers out there who are doing the wrong thing, particularly by young workers whether they are here on holiday visas or whether they are here on student visas, and they should not be able to get away with it.

Of course, there are some elements of being able to tackle this through the Fair Work Act and the Greens are doing what we can. The Member for Melbourne, in the other place, has introduced legislation to amend the Fair Work Act to ensure that there is responsibility for exploitation such as this to be taken right to the top of organisations that operate on these types of franchise set-ups. But here we are today looking specifically at issues that relate to the exploitation and wrong use of people on working type visas. Why shouldn't it also ensure that we protect those people who are here on student visas, working holiday visas and other types of short-term working arrangements?

I struggle to understand why the government is not taking this issue up themselves head-on. It is surely not a particularly hard line to draw if you want to crackdown on those who are doing the wrong thing in terms of employer sponsored visas. If the same credentials apply to them and you want to crack down on them then surely you are able to stretch that out and ensure that you get those who are amongst the most vulnerable of our non-nationals and non-citizen workers.

I have also got some questions for the minister. I raised in my speech on the second reading the big concern around these issues: that they do not just deal with the employers who have done the wrong thing but that they also capture the person who has been given the visa, who may have got into this situation unwittingly. I am drawing this question in the context of these amendments from the opposition because a lot of these students are people who have English as a second language and who do not have family supports around them. They are back home overseas. It makes them even more vulnerable. I think we should be going after the employers in this area, not the workers. I would like to know what the government is doing to ensure that we are not going to be tripping up and catching those who are actually the victims in this rather than the masterminds of unscrupulous behaviour.


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