Wednesday, 13 November 2019
Before moving general business notice of motion No. 232, I ask that the name of Senator Faruqi be added to the motion. I, and also on behalf of Senator Faruqi, move:
That the Senate—
(a) recognises there is a crisis in Australia in the exploitation of migrant workers;
(b) notes the findings in a report, dated November 2017, Wage theft in Australia: Findings of the National Temporary Migrant Work Survey, authored by Migrant Worker Justice Initiative, UNSW and UTS, that include:
(i) two-thirds of migrant workers reporting that their employer, at one point or another, failed to provide a payslip – with 44% reporting they had never received a payslip for their work,
(ii) 28% of workers in the hospitality industry experiencing their employer confiscating their passport,
(iii) 30% of survey participants earning $12 per hour or less – this is approximately half the minimum wage for a casual employee in many of the jobs in which temporary migrants work, and
(iv) 46% of participants earning $15 per hour or less;
(c) notes an October 2018 report, by the Migrant Worker Justice Initiative which found that fewer than one in 10 (9%) of migrant workers took action to recover unpaid wages, even though most know they were being underpaid;
(d) commends UnionsNSW and the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre for their Visa Assist program which provides free legal advice and assistance to migrant union members; and
(e) notes that, despite accepting all the recommendations contained in the report of the Migrant Workers' Taskforce, released on 7 March 2019, the Federal Government has failed to act on recommendations 3 to 9, 11 to 13 and 18 to 22.
The government strongly rejects any assertion of a lack of action to address exploitation of migrant workers. The government has passed tougher laws to better protect vulnerable workers, has boosted the resources of the regulator and has commenced work on implementing the recommendations of the Migrant Workers' Taskforce, including drafting new criminal penalties for the worst forms of worker exploitation. Labor went to the last election with a 310-page policy platform containing over 100 mentions of unions, $387 billion of higher taxes and precisely zero references to either a migrant workers task force or criminal penalties for wage theft.