Federal Labor has raised the alarm over findings of a senate inquiry which has underscored the risk of exploitation that Australia’s temporary migration program poses to workers, creating ‘slavery-like’ conditions for some.
The select committee on temporary migration, which was chaired by Labor senator Raff Ciccone, published a report on Thursday that found that the workers on temporary visas tended to be exploited and underpaid.
The situation also has negative consequences for low-skilled domestic workers by reducing their work opportunities and wages, the report found.
In a statement, Labor senator and shadow minister for immigration and citizenship Kristina Keneally said that it was clear looking at the ‘composition of Australia’s migrant intake’ had the effect of a ‘downward pressure on Australian wages’. She added that the LNP government’s significant increase in temporary work visas at the expense of permanent migration options was exacerbating the issue.
“Australian parents would be rightly shocked to discover that the fruit in their kids’ lunchboxes could have been picked by exploited temporary visa holders working in slavery-like conditions on some Australian farms,” Keneally said.
According to Keneally, Scott Morison’s government has granted more temporary work visas than any other in Australia’s history. She pointed to the Intergenerational Report, which projected that under LNP policies, the number of temporary migrants in Australia are expected to double over the next 40 years.
“Australia is a nation built great by migration – namely, permanent migration – and that should continue. The international borders won’t stay shut forever.”
“COVID-19’s unprecedented and sudden impact on Australia’s immigration program provides an opportunity to reshape the composition of Australia’s migration program to ensure it best supports Australian workers, creates jobs and gets wages moving again,” Keneally said.
The select committee on temporary migration was established by Labor in December 2019. It received more than 131 submissions from stakeholders during the hearing process. Its final report made key recommendations to prioritise permanency options for the nation’s immigration policy, and provide more resources to improve community settlement services for new migrants.
Among its 40 recommendations, the report calls for a significant increase to resourcing Home Affairs’ visa application processing, ditching a 88-day farm work requirement in the working holiday maker program, and banning any employer who is found to exploit workers who are temporary visa holders.