Federal Budget endorses employee wages theft

By Leith van Onselen

Since the 7-Eleven migrant worker scandal broke in 2015, there has been a regular flow of reports about the systemic abuse of Australia’s various migrant worker programs and visa system, as well as widespread wages theft across multiple business lines.

For example in March, Fairfax reported that almost two-thirds of businesses audited in the migrant hotspot of Western Sydney by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) were seriously short-changing workers or failing to keep proper pay records.

With this background in mind, it’s astounding that Tuesday’s Federal Budget cut funding to the FWO while boosting funding to the union watchdog, the “disgraced” Registered Organisations Commission (RCO):

The national unions watchdog has received an $8 million boost while funding for the organisation that polices wage theft has been frozen.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s budget was shaved slightly in Tuesday night’s budget from $110.464 million in the current financial year to $110.009 million this coming year.

The funding freeze comes as the Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James lashed out at a “completely unacceptable” and “disturbing culture” of underpayment in the hospitality industry…

Andrew Stewart, professor of employment law at the University of Adelaide said there was “massive evidence of wage theft and undetected breaches by employers across signifcant sections of the labour market”.

“And the government is pouring money into going after trade unions rather than increasing the Ombudsman’s capacity to enforce wage laws.

Labor spokesman for employment and workplace relations, Brendan O’Connor said the government’s priorities were “all wrong”.

“Thousands of workers have been ripped off as a result of systemic wage underpayment, yet [Prime Minister Malcolm] Turnbull and his Liberals would rather pump $8.1 million into the disgraced Registered Organisations Commission, than help vulnerable workers,” he said…

Stephen Clibborn from University of Sydney Business School said… “the Fair Work Ombudsman was never set up to be a successful enforcer of employer standards and has never been sufficiently resourced to do that job”…

The Turnbull Government obviously endorses migrant exploitation and wages theft.

This is the core of Australia’s wage malaise right here.

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Leith van Onselen


  1. AllblackMEMBER

    ‘we have the preposterous Fake Left apologists branding anyone who tackles the issue a racist’…. anyone have an example of this?

      • To be honest I don’t understand any of the arguments i.e. Calif has promoted massive immigration for yonks without infrastructure in advance and now Texas is attempting to play the same game. The only difference is the degree that either one will facilitate corporatist demands or how the bill is payed via Citizens [marginal taxes – GST] or investors [Mud bonds – user pays et al].

        Lmmao… Calif loves cheap immigrants as does Texas, only thing different is how they publicly justify it. California says its social equality uplift, where Texas says its liberty and freedom – rim shot.

    • There is no need for a public broadcaster in this era of cheap to free information / entertainment in the internet / digital age.

      The ABC was relevant for a short period of time – when radio was new and only the government could afford to set up the infrastructure and make content. Things have now changed.

      Reduce its budget. Make it a very basic service – televising question time, emergency broadcasts et al.

      • Hunter, to the contrary, the ABC should have its budget doubled to choke the illogical right-wing media.

        All the 4 Corners episodes should be put online. Who else is going to expose the wage theft by 7-11? A TV station that has 7-11 ads on it?

        The books of the ABC should be opened up for armchair accountants and building managers to pore over.

  2. The states must step in and have jail for wage theft. And the state police must send people underground in order to catch bosses who steal wages.

    Remember, if a boss is stealing wages from one worker, he is probably stealing wages from another 9 workers.

    Keep in mind that the Greens raised petrol taxes after Abbott became PM. The Greens do not give a damn about the incomes of voters south of the hipster proof fence.

  3. Chortle… so much fake lefty and greens bashing above when for decades both economics and politics has relentlessly marched rightward.

  4. Jumping jack flash

    Shhhh!!! Don’t rock the boat! Everyone wins in the great Australian ponzi economy:

    The 3rd world migrant workers get to live in luxurious Australia and get paid in valuable Australian dollars.
    The employer gets cheap labour to boost productivity, increase profit, and pay themselves more.
    The politicians point to the statistics that show that wages are rising, on average, and everything is ok.
    The employer exchanges the wage rises for more debt, increasing house prices, and bank profits.
    Increased house prices make everyone “feel richer”. And as we all should know by now, there’s nothing more satisfying than feeling richer, as you eat your 2-minute noodles sitting around your candle in your million dollar house, then catching the train in the morning to go to work, packed as if it was Mumbai, giving you a hands-on, multicultural experience in your own backyard.

    So where’s the problem exactly?