Recommendations to improve Australia’s temporary migration system
Over the past two years the Senate Committee on Temporary Migration has received 131 submissions from individuals, community groups, peak bodies, businesses unions and other stakeholders, and throughout that time the one connecting thread was that of a broken system.
Senator Raff Ciccone, chair of this committee, recently released information about the results of the report.
“Over the course of the past two years, we’ve heard of temporary visa worker exploitation, of wage theft and of physical abuse and sexual abuse,” Senator Ciccone said in a statement.
“We’ve heard of visa processing times stretching not just into the months but into the years and of a systemic lack of communication from the Department of Home Affairs to visa applicants."
“We’ve heard of farmers who are struggling to access the labour that they need to meet their demands in harvest periods and of their frustration at navigating visa programs and the bureaucracy surrounding Australia’s various labour schemes."
“We’ve heard from communities suffering from the social effects of transient workforces, desperate to offer temporary migrants permanent opportunities to settle but unable to do so, an all-too-common tale in regional areas.”
His report emphasised the need to reform the system and offer positive solutions. Forty recommendations have come from this in-depth review with the nucleus being to achieve greater simplification. The current system relies on a system of classes and subclasses to determine eligibility and scope however, Sen Ciccone has stated that these are too complex for visa applicants and employers.
The committee has recommended that more resources be provided to the Department of Home Affairs to improve assessment times and communication with applicants. He stated that “under the visa system envisaged by this report, applying for a visa would be straightforward and assessments would be conducted in a timely and transparent manner”.
An independent body incorporating the voices of government, industry and unions would be implemented to assess areas where skills shortages may be prevalent.
Some of the more noteworthy recommendations are:
The abolition of the 88-day farm work requirement of the Working Holiday Maker program;
Increasing Australia’s quarantine capacity for the inclusion of seasonal workers;
Improving the flexibility of the Seasonal Worker Program to allow greater engagement of people from the Pacific region and Timor-Leste in agriculture specific work;
Banning employers who exploit workers from employing temporary visa holders;
Significantly increasing the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold to restore
fairness to Australia’s skilled shortage by protecting local workers;
Providing protections to those temporary visa workers who report exploitation;
Establishing a small-claims tribunal to resolve wage theft disputes;
Holding franchisors financially responsible for the underpayment of employees by franchisees;
Reorganising the Fair Work Ombudsman into the Fair Work Inspectorate, with greater focus and resources on enforcement;
Authorising unions to conduct audits on businesses suspected of exploiting workers.
The report also recommended a number of measures aimed at improving education and training, the establishment of a National Labour Hire Licensing Scheme, and increased resources for non-government organisations to support migrants integrating into Australian communities.
Migration is a key economic lever to help the Australian economy, and temporary migration also has a very important role to play where demand does not meet needs.
The full text of Senator Ciccone’s report can be found here.