Australia 101 Blog

Susan Wareham
FREE gift

Sign up for our eNews and get this fantastic eBook for free.

Get the FREE eBook
Strine: Australian
Slang, what you need
to know but are
afraid to ask...

22 pages full of must
know Australian
slang from 'aggro' to
'zack' and heaps in between.

Temporary overseas workers employed in New South Wales will be given greater protection in the workplace under a joint Commonwealth-State agreement announced today.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, today signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between his department and WorkCover NSW that will strengthen the monitoring of employers hiring overseas workers on subclass 457 visas.

Under the agreement, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and WorkCover NSW will exchange names and addresses of businesses that employ subclass 457 visa holders, and information about workplace safety incidents.

Senator Evans said the agreement will further strengthen the ability to protect temporary overseas workers from exploitation by unscrupulous employers.

‘The MoU sends a clear message to employers – we are watching you closely and if you don’t meet your immigration or workplace obligations you will attract the attention of a number of government agencies,’ Senator Evans said.

‘While the majority of employers do the right thing, there have been cases where temporary overseas workers have been forced to work in unsafe conditions or have been underpaid.’

In July, a Victorian packaging company was fined $100 000 for failing to provide a safe workplace or proper training following a complaint by two temporary migrant workers.

In the same month, a New South Wales healthcare recruiting company was fined $48 000 for failing to pay entitlements to three Filipino nursing assistants.

And in March, a Western Australian construction company was fined $174 000 for 21 breaches of the Workplace Relations Act after the Commonwealth Workplace Ombudsman found that 15 workers from the Philippines and Ireland had been exploited.

‘The Australian Government is committed to restoring the integrity of the 457 visa program,’ Senator Evans said.

‘In addition to this MoU, similar agreements are under consideration with Western Australian, Queensland and Victorian workplace safety authorities.

‘Employer access to temporary skilled overseas workers can only be sustained if the community has confidence in the program.

‘The Australian Government intends to further strengthen monitoring of employers through the Worker Protection Bill introduced to parliament last week.

‘The Bill proposes further information-sharing agreements that include allowing the Australian Taxation Office to provide tax information of workers and sponsors to DIAC to ensure visa holders are paid the correct salary.

‘Specially trained officers with investigative powers will monitor workplaces and conduct site visits to determine whether employers are complying with the redefined sponsorship obligations under the proposed laws.

‘Fines of up to $33 000 are proposed for employers found in breach of the obligations.

‘These measures will strike the right balance between facilitating the entry of overseas workers to meet genuine skills shortages, preserving the integrity of the labour market and protecting workers from exploitation.’

Recent data shows there has been a 27 per cent increase in the temporary skilled migration program for 2007-08.

In total, 110 570 visas were granted to temporary skilled workers and their dependants in 2007-08 compared to 87 310 in 2006-07. The number of primary visa holders jumped 24 per cent in 2007-08 to a record 58 050 compared to 46 680 in the 2006-07 program.

New South Wales was the biggest user with a total of 20 480 primary subclass 457 visa grants.

Explore Australia 101...