By Leith van Onselen
is today reporting on alleged cases of fraud and rorting within Australia’s skilled migration program, with the Immigration Department conducting a series of raids on a multinational firm working on major Australian mining and infrastructure projects:
The raids targeted the offices of Murphy Pipe & Civil (MPC), with documents and other material seized.
The firm has allegedly assisted dozens of Irish workers fraudulently obtain 457 temporary skilled and other visas to work on key national projects…
[It] raises questions about whether some of Australia’s biggest infrastructure and mining players, including the company managing the Curtis LNG project, QGC, have failed to conduct thorough due diligence on the workforces supplied by sub-contractors such as MPC. QGC did not respond to questions.
The revelations have sparked fresh debate about the use of overseas workers to meet labour shortages, which the business lobby says is vital.
has reported that foreign workers at the Bomaderry Ethanol Plant on the south coast of NSW, owned by Manildra Group, have been working up to seven days a week for as little as $4 an hour, while living in New Matilda “cramped and degrading conditions”:
…the CFMEU discovered 29 Chinese and Filipino workers, who are at the centre of the scandal, constructing a feed pellet mill at the Bomaderry Ethanol Plant. They were employed under sub-class 400 visa arrangements, and contracted to work at Manildra through a Taiwanese company called Chia Tung Development Corporation…
According to the CFMEU, the foreign employees have been working for 10 or 11 hours a day, up to 7 days a week and taking home between $40 and $100 per day, with virtually no workplace entitlements…
“Workers under these visa arrangements are vulnerable because they’re desperate to keep their job and are worried about being kicked out of the country.”
Some of the 29 workers discovered by the CFMEU have also
claimed that they are being treated as receiving just “virtual prisoners”, “one day off work a month to shop, clean house and for personal leisure”.
The allegations comes hot on the heels of the Abbott Government’s
decision to relax requirements around 457 ‘temporary’ work visas to make it much easier for Australian businesses to import so-called “skilled” foreign workers, along with the Government seeking to introduce a “short-term mobility visa”, which would allow employers to hire specialised workers for up to 12 months.
They also come after last week’s release of the Department of Employment’s latest
, which revealed that Skill Shortages Statistical Summary “the availability of skilled workers is greater than it has been since the current series began in 2007, and fewer occupations are in shortage”:
There are generally large fields of applicants vying for skilled jobs and employers fill a high proportion of their vacancies… Almost all employers attract applicants, with just 4 per cent not receiving any interest in their vacancies…
As I keep arguing, now is entirely the wrong time for the Abbott Government to be further relaxing foreign worker visas, given Australia’s stubbornly high unemployment (particularly youth unemployment), which is likely to worsen as mining investment unwinds, the local car industry closes, and the current housing construction boom-let subsides.
Given such an economic environment, why on earth should the visa system make it even easier to import labour from offshore rather than training local workers, potentially adding to the pool of under/unemployed and depriving our youth of employment opportunities?
In light of the latest allegations around foreign worker visa fraud, now is also high time for a Senate Inquiry into the issue to determine: whether the whole foreign visa system is appropriate given the fragile state of the economy and lack of labour shortages; whether it is being systematically rorted; and whether it is depriving Australians of training and work opportunities.