Migration Amendment (Strengthening Employer Compliance) Bill 2023

Scarlet Alliance submission to the Committee Secretary, Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Migration Amendment (Strengthening Employer Compliance) Bill 2023 [Provisions]

“Scarlet Alliance understands the Bill prioritises the establishment of new criminal offences and increased civil penalties for employers and third party providers who misuse visa programs to exploit temporary migrant workers. We note the Bill also aims to create Ministerial regulatory guidance over visa cancellation for some migrant workers. As such the Bill would be implementing some of the twenty two recommendations of the 2019 Report of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.

The most effective approach to address workplace breaches is to promote education to the impacted community using preferred languages. This education should prioritise their needs, recognise their agency and promote self-determination in the workplace. Government policies should promote industrial rights and create civil remedies to statutory compensation without fear of deportation. Criminal penalties unaccompanied by civil prevention efforts, training for front-line staff or human right measures is counterproductive, erodes trust between migrant workers and enforcement agencies and does not resolve the risks of exploitation of migrant workers.”

Scarlet Alliance argues:

  • Effective approaches to address labour breaches must be undertaken through a focus on prevention, industrial rights, occupational health and safety, civil remedies, statutory compensation, labour-rights-based non-criminal justice pathways, and equitable access to visas, migration channels and support.
  • Access to civil avenues of redress must be developed to protect the labour rights of migrant workers. Migrant workers need access to industrial mechanisms to claim compensation, redress exploitative working conditions and access legal aid and support without fear of deportation or negative impact on future permanent residency applications.
  • Scarlet Alliance supports calls to introduce a reliable guarantee against visa cancellation for migrant workers taking action against exploitation through government agencies, trade unions, nonprofits and/or specialist lawyers. This model was set out in the Breaking the Silence report, which we support, and was also endorsed by more than 40 other organisations across Australia. It proposed that the most appropriate way to provide this guarantee is by way of regulations issued pursuant to s 116(2). Unlike s116(1A), which is the subject of this Bill, s116(2) prohibits the Department of Home Affairs from cancelling a visa under circumstances set out in regulations.