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Many migrant workers face a ‘crisis of exploitation’. Will these reforms end it?

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Key Points
  • New laws target migrant worker exploitation.
  • The changes include making it a criminal offence to coerce someone into breaching their visa conditions.
  • Penalties would be increased for employers who exploit migrants.
The federal government has proposed law reform to stop workplaces breaching their responsibilities, which will be introduced to parliament when it next meets.
The proposed changes would make it a criminal offence to coerce someone into breaching their visa conditions, stop employers from hiring people on temporary visas where they have in the past, and increase penalties for employers who do the wrong thing.

A section of existing migration law which undermines people who report exploitative behaviour will also be repealed.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles described the current arrangement for many migrant workers as a “crisis of exploitation”.
He said up to one in six recent migrants were paid less than the minimum wage.
“When migrant workers are being underpaid it hurts all of us, driving wages and conditions down for everyone,” he said.
“These reforms will help workers speak up and target those employers who do the wrong thing.”

The government will amend migration regulations to enhance labour market mobility for sponsored migrants in three types of visas by extending the allowable time between employer sponsors from 60/90-days to 180-days.

An additional $50 million will be provided to the Australian Border Force to help enforce the new laws.
Future consultation will also be undertaken on potential whistle-blower protections for temporary visa holders and to strengthen cooperation between the Fair Work Ombudsman and Home Affairs department.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said past indifference to a workforce reliance on low-paid, temporary migrant workers who were routinely exploited would end with the Albanese government.

“We are in consultation on systemic changes to our migration system which will ensure it works in the interests of Australian workers and businesses and we are also doing the work necessary to ensure that no one who comes to this country is exploited or abused,” she said.


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