Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


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

6:43 pm

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader for Science) Share this | Hansard source

The opposition intent here is to deal with the reality of what happens in the workplace as distinct from the theory of the way in which it is explained, particularly in this town. I have been dealing with immigration cases, as many of you here have, for many, many years. When it comes to the question about abuses of 457 visas, the power is all in the hands of the employer, particularly where a person has a serious complaint but wants to actually stay in this country, especially if they have an aspiration for a permanent residency. So there is an enormous pressure on any complainant in terms of what they reveal. The minister is quite right: there is discretion within the current act. What we are trying to do is not about providing a blanket indemnity; in fact, what we are talking about here is that the minister has to have a reasonable belief. The minister has to show some judgement.

You do need to improve the level of protection for whistleblowers because the current legislation does not and the current practice does not. I have come across meatworkers over many, many years who have been faced with the extraordinary power of the employer to actually throw them out of the country if they complain, let alone report an employer to a government agency. That is one of the reasons that employers use these particular visas because of the control they have over people on the shop floor.

Make no mistake about it: we are not dealing with some idealistic legal principle here. We are dealing with the power of people to ruthlessly exploit workers under the most adverse conditions. We recently saw the case of the student visa arrangements in regard to 7-Eleven. How long did it take for this government to say, 'By the way, we will consider people being given an exemption from their obligations under the student visa arrangements'? It took so long, and in that time police needed information, I think, about how the scam was working. That is what troubles me about the government's position. They rely on a legalistic approach which history has shown does not work given the power relationships in regard to the way people are treated. That is why I say whistleblowers are entitled to more protection—not a blanket indemnity but more protection—and that is what these amendments do.

The CHAIRMAN: Just to be clear, there are three amendments before the chair. Those are amendments (3), (46) and (56). We may have indicated that it was amendment (45) earlier in the proceedings, but that is not correct. The question is that amendments (3), (46) and (56) on sheet 7807 be agreed to.


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