Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


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

6:30 pm

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

I rise to speak in support of amendments (3), (45) and (56), as moved by Senator Carr, to ensure that whistleblowers are protected. This is not just an effective change to the law here. We will only be able to ensure that we crack down on people who are misusing and abusing these sponsor visas if we have people who are willing to speak out and give information about what is going on in workplaces. We have seen this over and over again, particularly in relation to exploitation of foreign workers—whether it is those under 457 visas, whether it is more short-term working visas, study visas or, indeed, working holiday visas. The one barrier to people speaking out and alerting authorities to things that are happening that are wrong, to the abuse of visas, to the abuse of workers in the workplace and the exploitation of vulnerable people, is the fear of not being protected if they come forward. The 7-Eleven example is another, but there are many others, such as those on sponsored visas—they may be seasonal workers—or in other industries.

There is that vulnerability, particularly if you are a migrant, if you do not speak English as your first language, if you do not have a strong social and family network around you and you are unsure about what your rights would be if you spoke up. It is absolutely crucial that people who are putting themselves in a vulnerable position by blowing the whistle are indeed fully protected by the law, and there is no ambiguity about that. These amendments go some way to strengthening the assurance that the people who are going to be coming forward and exposing unscrupulous behaviour can do so with the full confidence that they themselves will not be hung out to dry or left in the lurch. It is important that we build a culture across all of our workplaces, but in particular in those areas where we have foreign workers who are already vulnerable because of their visa status, in which they can get an understanding of and information about what their rights are as workers in Australia. They need to feel confident that they have every right to stand up to exploitation and every right to alert the authorities, without the fear of being deported, without the fear of being intimidated, and without the fear that if they do not give the right information as to what the Australian Federal Police might deem to be important they are then going to be thrown on the pile and left to fend for themselves.

If we want this legislation as a whole to work in terms of cracking down on the business model of dodgy rorters, then we have to give support to the people who are going to be the witnesses to that. These amendments help to bolster that and to give more protections, which I think is absolutely warranted. I would be surprised if the crossbench senators would not support the idea of protecting these people, so that we can ensure that, when employers are doing the wrong thing, people will have faith that speaking out and giving that information means they will not be hung out to dry.


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