New laws were recently passed through Federal parliament designed to protect overseas workers and ensure that they are not exploited as little more than cheap labour.
The Migration Legislation Amendment (Worker Protection) Bill 2008 is aimed at all overseas workers, including those on the controversial 457 visas.
The new laws will enable the Commissioner of Taxation to provide the Department of Immigration and Citizenship with tax information to guarantee correct salary levels are being paid to overseas workers.
According to the office of Federal Minister for Immigration Chris Evans, of almost 60,000 visas granted to overseas workers in 2007/2008 a total of 192 sponsors were formally sanctioned and a further 1353 employers were formally warned for breaches of the visa program.
Use of the 457 visa was recently highlighted by noted mining figure and Australia’s richest woman Gina Rhinehart.
The Hancock Prospecting director suggested on ABC radio’s Sunday Profile that Australia should use overseas labour to build up infrastructure in order to ensure future Australian jobs.
“I’m suggesting that the guest labourers be able to come in and build the ports or the other infrastructure that the Government decides, and then they’d actually leave Australia,” Rhinehart said.
According to Rhinehart, if infrastructure is not built Australia risks the prospect of losing projects to offshore companies.
“Once you have got the infrastructure, the Australian workers have more job opportunities than if the infrastructure is not built in Australia and other projects go ahead offshore and then compete with Australia,” she said.
The recently released Deegan report on the integrity of the 457 visa program informed the development of the new laws, which will see specially trained inspectors monitor workplaces to determine whether employers are meeting the terms of the new obligations.