Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


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

6:58 pm

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

These amendments go to one of the main concerns that the Greens have and that I spoke about in my speech on the second reading. I am extremely concerned that the way the government's current bill has been drafted leaves wide open the opportunity for those visa holders to be the ones who cop the brunt of the crackdowns in relation to these unscrupulous employers. I absolutely support the idea that we need to stop the rorting. I absolutely support the idea that we need to ensure that people are not being exploited or misled in relation to getting a migration outcome.

But rather than going after the employer, what this bill consistently does is capture the employee, the visa holder. As it is currently drafted, with the minister having the power to cancel the visa of someone who received a benefit, whether or not there is any proof the individual was aware of the situation or indeed sought that particular outcome. It may be that it is an unintended consequence of the legislation, but let us clear it up. My office has been speaking with the minister's office today about this issue in particular, and I am not sure why the government is so intent on not tweaking it. If it is not the intent of the government to penalise the visa holder but rather to catch the employer, then they should not have legislation in place that is going to unfairly impact on the visa holder.

The government and the minister's office have been in communication with my office—and I am sure it has been the same with others on the crossbench and possibly even the opposition—saying that it should be the minister's word that is strong enough in the explanatory memorandum. We have dealt with this minister for a little while now and, frankly, his word means zilch, when it comes to this particular issue of trust. I do not trust the minister on this. If we actually want to protect people through this legislation, if we do not want employees and visa holders to be unfairly targeted and caught up in this process and if they are not the ones that this legislation is targeting then let us fix it so there is no ambiguity and it is not simply left with the minister as a matter of trust.

It is a simple fact that the only reason we need a review of how this law is going to be enacted over the next 12 months is that everybody in this place, it seems, except for the minister, is concerned that the people who are the most vulnerable are the ones who are going to cop it. There is not enough protection for them, and we have seen the other amendments not be supported in terms of people not being protected for speaking out. Now we have a situation where we are trying to ensure it is not the visa holders who have been exploited in the process by these dodgy business models and that it is in fact the employer who is held responsible.

Let us fix it, and let us make sure it is clear. These amendments do that. Vulnerable workers should not be placed at risk of deportation in response to this law coming down on the criminal actions of their employers. Why should someone who is employed be culpable for the actions of their employer? It is just not fair. We have heard the minister and the advisers of the department say that the intention of this legislation is not to crack down on the employees, that they do not want to make the visa holder responsible for the actions of their dodgy and criminal employers. Good. So let us put that in the legislation and make sure it is crystal clear. Of course, in saying all that, the Greens would like to see these amendments passed, because we do not believe it should simply be left to a matter of trust of the minister.


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