Monday, 05 June 2023
Media release

Albanese Government to tackle worker exploitation

Joint media release with the Hon Tony Burke MP and the Hon Andrew Giles MP

The Albanese Government will protect workers at risk of exploitation with a package of measures that target employers who seek to exploit temporary visa holders and ensure workers can speak up without fear of reprisal. 

One in six recent migrants to Australia is paid less than the minimum wage. This exploitation doesn’t just hurt the individual worker, but effectively drives down wages and worsens conditions for all Australian workers.

After a decade of neglect, the Albanese Government is cleaning up the mess of the former Liberal Government who failed to implement key recommendations in the Migrant Workers Taskforce Report.

Following eight months of consultation, the Albanese Government is today announcing a package of legislative powers, enforcement tools, additional funding and a new approach to help people in exploitative workplaces speak up.

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles, will introduce legislation into Parliament in the coming weeks that will penalise unscrupulous employers.

The new measures will:

  1. Make it a criminal offense to coerce someone into breaching their visa condition;
  2. Introduce prohibition notices to stop employers from further hiring people on temporary visas where they have exploited migrants;
  3. Increase penalties and new compliance tools to deter exploitation; and
  4. Repeal section 235 of the Migration Act which actively undermines people reporting exploitative behaviour.

The Government will also provide $50 million in funding to resource the Australian Border Force for this and other enforcement and compliance activities.

The Albanese Government is also committed to supporting those who are exploited to speak out. The Government will consult with business, unions and civil society on whistleblower protections for temporary visa holders and strengthening firewall between the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Home Affairs.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Workplace Relations and Employment, Tony Burke

“Exploiting workers is never acceptable.

“We’re committed to stamping it out wherever it’s happening and protecting all workers working in Australia – regardless of their migration status.

“The previous government neglected these workers, by failing to act. We’re fixing that.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for Home Affairs, Clare O’Neil​

“Over the last ten years our migration system has drifted deeper and deeper into reliance on low-paid temporary migrant workers who we know are routinely exploited, under a government that simultaneously did nothing to prevent this exploitation.

“This indifference stops with our Government. We are in consultation on systemic changes to our migration system which will ensure it works in the interests of Australian workers and businesses, and we are also doing the work necessary to ensure that no one who comes to this country is exploited or abused. The fact that this has been happening almost unchecked in our migration system is a reflection on the competency and values of the former government.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles

“There is a crisis of exploitation, with up to one in six recent migrants paid less than the minimum wage.

“When migrant workers are being underpaid – it hurts all of us, driving wages and conditions down for everyone. For a decade, the former Liberal government put the safety of migrant workers on the backburner.

“These reforms will help workers speak up and target those employers who do the wrong thing.”