A Senate committee chaired by Labor has proposed changes to the temporary migration system to combat exploitation and address labour shortage. As part of a significant revamp of temporary migration, Australia has been urged to abolish the day backpacker slave regulation.
On Wednesday, a Senate committee issued 40 proposals aimed at improving the system. The two-year investigation received 131 responses and unearthed strong evidence of wage theft and exploitation in industries that employ a large number of temporary foreign workers. The 88-day work requirement for backpackers to be eligible for a second-year visa would be eliminated under the guidelines. As part of a free trade agreement, Australia has agreed to remove the necessity for British backpackers.
Raff Ciccone, a Labor senator and chair of the committee, said the “slave” provision should be repealed across the board. It wants the working holidaymaker visa to be reintroduced as a cultural exchange programme rather than a labour programme.
Senator Ciccone told parliament that “those who spoke to our committee informed us that they were fed up with report after report, band-aid solutions, and a lack of systemic improvement.”
The report recommends that the Department of Homeland Security receive a significant funding boost to ensure that visa decisions be made more quickly. To solve farm labour shortages, Australia’s quarantine capacity for seasonal workers would be doubled, and two Pacific labour schemes would be strengthened.
Employers who are detected exploiting workers will be barred from hiring temporary migrants in the future. Wage theft would be dealt with by a small claims court, and visas would be extended until cases were resolved.
Whistle-blowers and temporary migrants who report exploitation should be protected by a legally enforced firewall between the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Home Affairs, according to the report.
Senator Ciccone stated that the probe gathered stories from people from all walks of life. “One theme runs true across almost all of them, and that is the storey of a dysfunctional system that is failing to deliver for those who need it,” he said. Throughout the investigation, he added, exploitation of temporary visa workers, pay theft, physical abuse, and sexual harassment were discovered.
Farm labour shortages, lengthy visa processing processes, and regional communities affected by itinerant workforces were also mentioned.
Senator Ciccone stated that the recommendations were nonpartisan and urged the government to embrace policies that would ensure future prosperity. A new body of government, industry and labour unions should be established to identify and address talent shortages, according to the research. Unions would be able to perform audits on companies that are suspected of exploiting employees.