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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7117


Mr MORRISON (Cook) (13:01): These amendments are fundamentally driven by the member for New England in the discussions he has had with the government over these matters. When we had those discussions with the member for New England, they were about reducing the regulatory burden. The government has put forward an amendment here which increases the regulatory burden, and this is to a bill and a set of measures that were already designed to choke the 457 scheme. We heard the last speaker for the government speak on this bill, and I think he was quite honest about the government's real intentions here. He wants to see the 457 scheme completely abolished and abandoned. There are two ways to do that: you can abolish the scheme or you can choke it to death through the measures this government is introducing through this bill in its attack on skilled migration.

In this bill, and in this amendment in particular, the government seeks to legislate in the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration, a council that does a good job. But one has to question why there is a need to actually mandate its presence in the legislation, other than when you get into the amendment and you note that the government is mandating the presence of unions in the formation of that council and, by law, hard-wiring the union into the process into the future. This is something we have seen from this government now for some time in the dying days of this 43rd Parliament as they do the bidding of the unions, even here in this last amendment they are seeking to put forward in this bill.

The amendments also make one worthy suggestion, though, and that deals with the transfer arrangements for those on skilled temporary visas or other temporary visas where they might translate. Why would the government seek to put this all in one omnibus group of amendments and not deal with that separately? If it had dealt with it separately then the coalition might have had the opportunity to support that matter. But, because it is bundled up here with the increased regulation the government has put on the table courtesy of the member for New England, we find ourselves in a situation where this is not an amendment we can support.

There are more mandatory obligations presented in the amendments put forward by the government than they had in their first bill. The red union tape only chokes this measure and chokes this scheme all the more tightly as a result of what the minister has brought in and put on this table today. I believe he has the purpose of trying to see this scheme run into the ground and taken out of the vital role that it plays in our economy. At the behest of the unions he would see this scheme go by the wayside, despite the fact that there are already significant powers and protections that were introduced into these measures back in 2008 as a result of the Deegan review. That gave powers to the government to go out there and police these measures.

We have seen that, despite a 20 per cent increase in the number of active sponsors, the number of sponsors monitored by the government has fallen by 67 per cent and the number of sponsor sites visited has fallen by 51 per cent. The budget for detection onshore of visa compliance has fallen from $74 million to $52 million under this government. So a government that says it wants to crack down on abuses has not given it the budget and has not increased its level of inspection despite the increased powers it was given. That is why the member for Lyne made very good points, in the debate earlier on the second reading, about powers that existed and the lack of any need, based on the lack of substantiation put forward by the government in bringing these measures to this House, to go forward and actually go and police the laws that it currently has. Our argument has been simple. The government has not done the appropriate work to bring this measure into the parliament and now it is seeking to add insult to injury through these amendments by applying further red tape to this measure, courtesy of the member for New England's support for this bill.

I note also that the minister notes that there are special restrictions applied for those in nursing and engineering. I note his comment about international trade issues and I would welcome the minister tabling what those international trade issues are, but I would make this point. We know that 457s are used as a critical measure to get nurses into regional and rural areas of Australia. It is a very important part of this scheme. The minister has not explained why he is seeking to make it harder to get nurses into rural and regional areas or to get engineers into major construction projects or major resource projects, which is a critical need, nor has he tabled the details of why he would add an additional burden on industry and on the health system to get the people it needs to provide the care and support workers required. (Time expired)