5 December 2019

Australia has the second-largest migrant workforce in the world – the number of migrants on visas has jumped from 1.8 million to 2.2 million in the past four years.

Serious concerns have been raised by workers, farmers, academics, unions, community groups and agriculture stakeholders that the current temporary visa regime is not working as intended, is subject to misuse and overuse of such visas, and is impacting on jobs and wages for Australian workers – including young and low-skilled workers.

Worse still, due to their temporary status and threats of deportation, migrant workers are more often subject to exploitation, wage theft and even physical and sexual abuse.

Unions NSW estimate that 80 per cent of temporary migrant workers are being paid below the legal minimum.

Given these concerns, Labor established a Select Committee on Temporary Migration today.

The Select Committee will inquire into and report on the impact temporary migration has on the Australia’s economy, wages and jobs, social cohesion and workplace rights and conditions, with particular reference to:

  1. government policy settings, including their impact on the employment prospects and social cohesion of Australians;
  2. the impact of temporary skilled and unskilled migration on Australia’s labour market;
  3. policy responses to challenges posed by temporary migration;
  4. whether permanent migration offers better long-term benefits for Australia’s economy, Australian workers and social cohesion;
  5. the impact of wage theft, breaches of workplace rights and conditions, modern slavery and human trafficking on temporary migrants; and
  6. any related matters.

The Morrison Government’s 2019-2020 Budget paper projects that Net Overseas Migration – the net gain or loss of population through migrant arrivals – will remain persistently high over the forward estimates.

On top of this, Peter Dutton’s failure to control Australia’s borders and the record number of airplane arrivals claiming asylum is only adding to the number of exploited workers in Australia.

This is proof these matters cannot be ignored by the third term Liberal National Government any longer. The Select Committee on Temporary Migration will be chaired by Labor Senator Raff Ciccone, hold public hearings in the coming months and is scheduled to deliver its report by December 2020.

Featured image: Ken Yam on Unsplash