Coalition opens yet another migrant visa rort pathway

By Leith van Onselen

Let’s recall the damning indictment of Australia’s “defacto low-skilled immigration programme” in the book entitled The Wages Crisis in Australia, which was released late last year by a group of labour market academics:

Official stock data indicate that the visa programmes for international students, temporary skilled workers and working holiday makers have tripled in numbers since the late 1990s…

Decisions by the federal Coalition government under John Howard to introduce easier pathways to permanent residency for temporary visa holders, especially international students and temporary skilled workers, gave a major impetus to TMW visa programmes.

Most international students and temporary skilled workers, together with many working holiday makers, see themselves as involved in a project of ‘staggered’ or ‘multi-step’ migration, whereby they hope to leap from their present status into a more long-term visa status, ideally permanent residency…

Though standard accounts describe Australian immigration as oriented to skilled labour, this characterisation stands at odds with the abundant evidence on expanding temporary migration and the character of TMW jobs… the fact that their work is primarily in lower-skilled jobs suggests that it is more accurate, as several scholars point out, to speak of a shift in Australia towards a de facto low-skilled migration programme

Increases in labour supply allow employers in sectors already oriented to flexible and low-wage employment, such as horticulture and food services, to sustain and extend strategies of labour cost minimisation… The arguments and evidence cited above suggest a spread of predatory business models within low-wage industries. They suggest an unfolding process of degradation in these labour markets…

This crisis has been precipitated by the federal government’s decision to freeze the salary floor for temporary skilled migrant workers since 2013… the government has chosen to put downward pressure on real wages for temporary skilled migrants, thereby surreptitiously allowing the TSS visa to be used in lower-paid jobs…

TSMIT’s protective ability is only as strong as the level at which it is set… But since 1 July 2013, TSMIT has been frozen at a level of A$53 900. ..

There is now a gap of more than A$26 000 between the salary floor for temporary skilled migrant workers and annual average salaries for Australian workers. This means that the TSS visa can increasingly be used to employ temporary migrant workers in occupations that attract a far lower salary than that earned by the average Australian worker. This begs the question — is the erosion of TSMIT allowing the TSS visa to morph into a general labour supply visa rather than a visa restricted to filling labour market gaps in skilled, high-wage occupations?..

Put simply, temporary demand for migrant workers often creates a permanent need for them in the labour market. Research shows that in industries where employers have turned to temporary migrants en masse, it erodes wages and conditions in these industries over time, making them less attractive to locals…

Combined, then, with the problems with enforcement and compliance, it is not hard to conclude that the failure to index TSMIT is contributing to a wages crisis for skilled temporary migrant workers… So the failure to index the salary floor for skilled migrant workers is likely to affect wages growth for these workers, as well as to have broader implications for all workers in the Australian labour market.

And the testimony from the ACTU:

Wright and Constantin (2015) surveyed employers using the 457 visa scheme and found that 86% state that they have experienced challenges recruiting workers locally. Despite identified recruiting difficulties, the survey found that fewer than 1 in one hundred employers surveyed had addressed ‘skill shortages’ by raising the salary being offered. Labour ‘shortages’ should first be addressed through a readjustment in the price of labour – increased wages. An inability to find local workers to work at a specified wage rate, coupled with an unwillingness to offer higher wages, does not necessarily imply a skill shortage – particularly where local workers would be willing and able to work if the wage rate was lifted. This differs from a skill shortage in which there are simply not enough people with a particular skill to meet demand.

The relatively recent availability of a large and vulnerable pool of temporary migrant workers has undoubtedly contributed to current record low levels of wages growth and a growing reluctance by employers to train local workers…

While there are approximately 1.5 million temporary entrants with work rights, the overseas worker team at the Fair Work Ombudsman consists of only 17 full time inspectors to investigate cases of exploitation – over 80,000 visa workers per inspector. Inadequate enforcement and penalties act as an incentive for employers to exploit temporary workers when the benefit from doing so outweighs the cost of the penalty. or where the probability of being caught is sufficiently low….

There have been a range of abuses uncovered which have clearly shown that the entire system is broken. From 7-11 and Domino’s to agriculture, construction, food processing to Coles, Dominos and Caltex, it is clear that the abuses occur in a number of visa classes whether they be students, working holiday makers or visa workers in skilled occupations…

Migration intermediaries have a vested interest in inflating demand. Australia has created a massive industry with many migration agents outside of our jurisdiction who cannot be prosecuted for breaches. This mushrooming “migration industry”- a complex and transnational web of agents, lawyers, labour recruiters, accommodation brokers and loan sharks – is currently largely unregulated.

The growth of labour hire operators alongside the migration industry has led to companies seeking to sell temporary migrant workers to employers, creating a fake “Job Network” which preferences temporary workers over Australians.

Against the backdrop of the widespread abuses of Australia’s visa system by Australian employers to obtain low-paid foreign labour, the Morrison Government in December announced a brand new permanent migration pathway for low skilled, low paid, non-English speaking foreign workers:

The Government has opened a gateway for foreigners with basic farm or hospitality skills to move permanently to Australia on a work visa.

New regional migration agreements for the Northern Territory and south-west Victoria will lower the criteria for skills, language and income for migrant workers.

And they will provide a pathway to permanent residency to these workers that previously did not exist…

Typically, employment visas must be for workers with competent English and pay of at least $53,900 per year.

However, under the previous Northern Territory DAMA, a visa may be approved for a baker, barista or hairdresser with language or income less than these thresholds.

Under the new DAMA these workers will likely be given a chance to move to Australia permanently.

Now, the Morrison Government has opened another visa rort pathway, announcing an expansion of its Accredited Sponsor Scheme. This scheme provides access to expedited work visas for eligible companies, and around 900 businesses and government organisations are currently participating in it. The expansion is expected to see over 2,500 companies taking part by the end of 2019. From The AFR:

The government’s Accredited Sponsor Scheme for work visas allows for rapid processing of skilled applicants seeking to work in more than 900 trusted businesses and government organisations, lasting for five years once approved…

Mr Coleman has instructed the Home Affairs Department to establish a new dedicated team to identify and invite employers to join the expanded scheme, with expectations it will almost triple to 2500 companies by the end of 2019…

“…where skills are unavailable in Australia, we must ensure businesses can access the global pool of skilled workers so they can continue to thrive and generate the best economic contribution for Australia”…

Presumably, the ridiculously low pay floor of $53,900 for ‘skilled’ migrants will apply to these visas, meaning it will provide even more opportunities for companies to undercut local workers and abrogate their responsibility for training.

Meanwhile, the new refugee “bait and switch: is in full roar, at The Australian:

Scott Morrison is sharpening his election focus on Australia’s immig­ration and population levels­, seizing on Finance Department costings that show Bill Shorten’s plans to lift the annual humanitarian refugee intake to 32,000 would cost the budget an extra $6.2 billion.

The analysis, which covers a government-wide breakdown includ­ing­­ settlement, welfare and health costs associated with the present humanitarian program, shows a deteriorating structural position in the budget under Labor plans to effectively double last year’s humanitarian intake by 2025.

The annual cost of managing the program for new entrants beyond­ 2019-20 would rise from $624 million this year to more than $4.3bn a year by 2028-29. This would compound over time and degrade existing services.

The Coalition has effectively declared war against Australian workers and has locked-in low wages growth for eternity even as it hides the fact behind fake border security scares.

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    • labour market academics lol…they probably tweeted that from the Qantas Club in Dubai!

    • The prices for the ‘services’ you enjoy have been in free-fall for some time. Why the concern?

      • reusachtigeMEMBER

        Exactly, thanks to hard working vibrants willing to do the job at a lower price. This needs to be replicated to all services especially the trades.

  1. Accredited Sponsor Scheme… Soooo.. that makes them ASS migrants!

    That aside … Oh FMD! not again!

    • Common practise in IT amongst the vibrants. Also when they leave a job suddenly they were a Tech Lead instead of Senior Developer. If they have read the book then they add that technology to the list for their last project so they can score a job as an ‘expert’. I dont trust any vibrants CV without verification.

  2. Wherever you have a Govt ‘scheme’ it will be rorted.

    Every. Time. No exceptions.

    • You mean when the government turns a blind eye to something, the psychopaths in the private sector will loot and plunder.

      Or in this case, legislate that foreigners on $10/hour wages can move to Sydney permanently! Not even turning a blind eye!

      • DominicMEMBER

        What I mean is that Govt schemes, no matter how well intentioned, are generally poorly thought out, constructed and executed.

        As such, they get rorted. There is very rarely a price to pay for failure among public sector employees so there is little incentive to do a good job. As such, you tend to get sh!t outcomes. We are dealing with human beings here, after all. Humans respond to (and are driven by) incentives while robots, for example, are not.

        Perhaps that’s the answer: government by robots 😉

    • Re: your 2:48 pm post.

      I am a libertarian too. Of course I do not want government to determine the size of my shower head.

      You are confusing handouts (pink batts, school halls, “uni” funding) for policy (mass importation of cheap third world labour).

      A few nations have shrinking populations, so it is possible to keep $10/hour immigrants out.

      I agree with you on government handouts. Pink batts, school halls, VET rorts, useless “degrees”. All due to government handouts with no strings attached.

      This article is about LNP’s latest policy (give AUS citizenship to $10/hour foreigners in Darwin)

  3. Good article, and thanks for keeping us informed of the “enhancements” to ASS. It will be interesting to see if the ALP retains ASS or if it modifies/curtails it after they win office in May. This program strikes at the heart of ALP supporters welfare.

    Every facet of Australia is being rorted to the maximum for the profit motive.

    There is no end in sight unless One Nation becomes a major political party and gains power.

    People voting for SAP are fooling themselves into believing that group of nerds can have any impact. They will just confuse themselves and end up allowing more people into Australia because they attract people who do not have the nuts to actually make tough decisions. It is all theoretical to them, and the name of the party is a joke that confuses. They scored a Bradbury win by getting a member into the Victorian upper house on extremely low first preferences – I guess the Libs/Lab/Greens and others would have put them higher up on the preference list than One Nation for tactical reasons.

    Bring on the long economic recession Australia needs to flush out the system, or if that fails to take us into Venezuela levels of income per capita and social stability.

    • Cameron Murray, of the SAP, has proven he has substance and is willing to say some hard truths – even when his University job was on the line. SAP are the real deal.

    • Whilst a lot of media attention was given to the ALP victory, the Upper House had more minor parties within it. If you look at first preferences a sizable minority do not want the LNP or ALP. I believe that the SAP did well in the Victorian election given it was their first election in Victoria and small campaign budgets (still saw several of their signs between the city and Frankston on the Napean highway during the campaign period). I also saw a lot of trolls ridicule them on social media (usually assuming they are racist). All in all, they did a fantastic job.
      The real issue in Victoria is that it six to twelve months behind New South Wales. They started spending big on infrastructure after NSW and even announced stadium refurbishments after NSW. Only recently has the government owned up that SD receipts are collapsing (some six to twelve months after NSW). During the election campaign, the Andrews government try to sell the fact that it could outbuild population growth (it can’t) and the voters bought the argument. SAP did well considering this. If the election was held later this year, I believe they would have done a bit better as more people start realising that you can’t outbuild population growth.

    • robert2013MEMBER

      Since names matter so much it would be sensible to launch multiple parties with different names to ascertain which will get the most votes, except all of them would be controlled by same group of people. Call it market research.

      • Names can matter and some of them are there to deceive like “Health Party Australia” which is a part full of antivaxxers. The real issue is getting your message across. Unless you are really controversial or have deep pockets or are well known, you will just be another name on the ballot sheet and few if any people would have gone through your policies.

    • It needs to be a name starting with an ‘A’ to be at the top of the ballot. Perhaps Against A Big Australia Party?

  4. Giving them permanent residency is insanity. They will move to a city as soon as they get an Aussie passport.

    Every immigrant should be required to pay $52k/year to the ATO for 10 years before being given an Aussie passport.

  5. Evil people are in power in this country.

    I will hold my nose and vote Labor in the coming federal election because they will close these temp worker rorts.