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Wednesday, 29 November 2006
Page: 143


Mr BAIRD (7:24 PM) —It is my pleasure to support the Migration Amendment (Employer Sanctions) Bill 2006. I listened for some 30 minutes to the member for Watson. He took a long time to say that he was actually supporting it. He got somewhat distracted by his attack on the government over 457 visas and by the occasional mention of sexual slavery. With regard to 457 visas, if you talk to employers about labour shortages—as we have during the inquiry of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration into Australian manufacturing exports and imports—you will find they are crying out for people to assist them short term in trying to find skilled labour. You will recognise that, despite the Labor Party’s ideological blinkers, people are saying this is the way to go when you have unemployment as low as it is because of the success of the government’s economic measures.

The member for Watson’s concern is really focusing on the micro level—that this will not do much for people on 457 visas who consider they are exploited—when the reality is that this is dealing with, as the department says, those 46,000 overstayers, some 25,000 of whom have been assessed as having been here perhaps longer than five years. What do we have? A focus on a very minute area of policy that has been generally very successful. In industry—whether it is the service sector or the manufacturing sector—people are saying that we have a major skills shortage. If the member for Watson got out there and talked to industry, instead of talking to his ideological mates, they would tell him what the problems are.


Mr Burke interjecting


Mr BAIRD —I am talking about all your right-wing Sussex Street mates. Take the tourism industry, for example. I do not know what exposure the member for Watson has had to the tourism industry—apart from the occasional junket—but recently in roundtables they have been saying that at any one time in the restaurant and catering sectors, for example, there is a seven per cent level of vacancies. If somebody walks in the front door, they lock the door so that they can make sure they do not get out before they have them signed up for a job. That is what industry is coping with, and bringing people in on a short-term basis is a way of trying to solve the problem.

Instead of recognising that we have a genuine aim to bring in legislation that is directed towards the illegal workers in the country—which I would have thought he would strongly support—the member for Watson spent half of his speech talking about 457 visas. This legislation is all about protecting the jobs of young Australian workers, senior Australians, people who are technically qualified and other people who have come here as genuine citizens, genuine refugees or genuine migrants, all of whom are seeking jobs in this country. This bill is protecting those people.

In this legislation the government is looking at a problem where unscrupulous employers are employing illegal workers. Having chaired the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission’s inquiry into the trafficking of women for sexual servitude, I think this is a real, legislative means of addressing that serious situation. It is estimated that up to a thousand women are brought into Australia from various South-East Asian countries and locked up in apartments. We hear the arguments of various brothel keepers that they did not know—that these people were coming here to work in restaurants and just happened to be here at the time. It is a genuine and major human rights abuse in this country.

The member for Watson of all people should be enthusiastically endorsing the provisions of this legislation. I think it does make some significant changes, particularly the provisions relating to recklessly ignoring the legislative requirements, so that employers genuinely check that their employees have the right to work in the country and that they are legitimate residents within Australia. This is important and appropriate. I know we have reached the time when debate will be interrupted, but I look forward to continuing the debate later with the member for Watson.

Debate interrupted.