Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 6452


Ms SAFFIN (Page) (10:07): I have listened to the debate on this Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013. I heard the member for Wannon from the coalition side debating it. There are a few points I want to pick up on. I say to him, and to the coalition, it can never be a burden to protect Australian jobs. I just do not understand how that can be a burden. That is what this amendment is about. I want to protect the jobs of the people in my electorate of Page and I will do all I can to promote them. That is my job, that is my role and that is why I am supporting this amending bill before the House today.

I know from when I talk to people right across my electorate of Page that they support the system of temporary overseas workers, which is 457 visas, because they know that it is needed at times, but equally they want to be assured and reassured that the government and the parliament have laws, procedures and protocols in place that ensure that their jobs come first and that when employers are looking for employees and are struggling with that at times everything has been done that can possibly be done. I will give a couple of local examples, further on, that show 457s can work effectively where we are doing the right thing by people who are unemployed in my area.

Survey results that the Migration Council published in their report showed that 15 per cent of employers chose to use the 457 system despite admitting they had no problem finding labour locally. Someone on the other side can stand here and say everything is working and it is hunky-dory but that is just simply not true. If you look in the Migration Council report the survey results show that employers are still recruiting under the 457 system for temporary overseas workers despite saying they have had no problem finding labour locally. That is a problem and that needs to be addressed. No government can read that and go, 'Oh well, that is fine, I am just going to ignore that and just let it roll on.' It is like any system. Any system needs constant monitoring and reviewing and, if there are problems with it, you seek to fix the problems. That is what the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has brought before this place.

The figures that I read for the 457 visa holders show they have risen by around 20 per cent and that is while employment growth has been around the one per cent mark. Thank goodness we have employment growth but, at the same time, you have this growth in 457 visas. When you do a risk analysis and you have your green, amber and red lights, these things show up as a red light. I do not know how the department do their work but I know that the boards and other things I serve on do the risk analysis and we have the lights—the green, the amber and the red. Everything I have read shows there are a lot of red lights within this system. I am talking about a national level and that governments have to look at it nationally.

We need to be assured there is investment in local training and recruitment. That is where the government has done a lot to ensure there is that investment. I turn now to my seat of Page. We have a local employment coordinator who has an advisory committee. He has done some remarkable work right across my electorate but also beyond my electorate. It goes into the electorates of Richmond, Cowper, Lyne and New England. The footprint of our local employment coordinator is quite large. I do not know how he does it but he does. It is a big area.

The member for Wannon talked about meatworks. I have an abattoir, the Northern Co-operative Meat Co., in my seat. It is a big employer with nearly a thousand employees. It uses 457 visas for temporary overseas workers and the system has been working well. Where there are some shortages, people come in on a temporary basis to work in the abattoirs on the 457 visas, but the company is also investing in local training and recruitment with the assistance of the local employment coordinator and also state training through New South Wales Department of Education and Communities. They are involved because everything we do, we do cooperatively in my area. When we do that work we all join together and work on it.

I stay apprised of all these developments because they are things I am very interested in and interested in advancing. At my local abattoirs they are actually investing in locals and training them up. They have recruited and they have trained. We also have the second largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in Australia in my seat and further across that North Coast footprint. We have very high figures and higher unemployment figures resulting from that as well. Yet within our meatworks they have local people and local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fellows. They are in there working and staying. The investment and the training are paying off. We have the two things happening there that should be happening. Where there is a shortage we have the 457s and that is working and we also have that local training and recruitment. I put that up because that is a bit of a model for people to look at to see how they should work. Everything I have read, all the figures, all the reports I have looked at show that that is not the case right across Australia. If that were the case right across Australia, we would not need to be here with the amending bill. But I am sure it does happen in other places in Australia.

This bill also says there will be labour market testing in relation to a nominated non-graduate occupation et cetera and that that will be a standard thing. I have seen the labour market testing that happens in my area because of the way we work—we have that cooperative model and we have all the figures, the stuff from DEEWR and the people on the ground. So we do that and have a process that works. I also have read that that does not work in other places. I understand it was a protocol and a protocol that has fallen down, and those protocols cannot fall down. They just have to operate to make sure this system maintains its integrity. If an amendment is required to do it, that is what we do. I can point again to how it works in my area. It also involves Regional Development Australia, which has had various incarnations. They were involved in that process. So, again, I look locally to see where it does work.

If you talk to people on the street, people always say to you: 'Okay, we've got these unemployment figures. I know people in my family who don't have jobs. They would go and do these jobs if they were recruited into them and trained. Why are we bringing people in from overseas?' That is a common refrain in the community. Every member would know that. Despite what they say in this place, every member hears that on the street and when they are out and about in all their community functions. It is up to us to explain how it works and, if it is not working, making it work better. Ultimately, these schemes and what we do in industry and the workforce rely on community acceptance, not just industry acceptance. I understand the needs of industry right across my seat. I have a fair idea of it nationally, but my job is in Page. I get it there. So it is this balance that we have to achieve all the time, and sometimes that needs recalibration.

This bill represents that recalibration. You have the system in place. There are some things that clearly are not working. We have to do the recalibration and make sure the integrity of the system is there so that each and every member can confidently say to our communities, 'We're doing the best we can by you and by those people who are unemployed and underemployed to make sure you've got every opportunity for training and recruitment.' We have to see that the employers are doing that, and then we can recruit and bring people in on the 457 visas and have temporary overseas workers.

I am well aware of it in the health area as well. There are certain needs there. I have led advocacy around recruitment of overseas born doctors where there has been a need for them in Australia, particularly in rural and remote areas. I live in an area you might not see as remote, but we have certainly had need to recruit doctors in that area. It is certainly rural and regional where I live, so we have had a need to do those things. I am talking some years back being involved in that system at state level too, opening it up so we could assist with getting medical people and doctors into those areas. So I am very mindful of always putting the needs of the community first. If we come to this place and that is our primary principle then we can make the best decisions. You start from the primary principles of community and Australian jobs first but equally balancing it with the needs of the industry because, if industry cannot work and is too hamstrung, it cannot provide the jobs that it needs to. That is always the point of this: getting that calibration right so that they are the people we look after. We need to answer those questions from our electorate absolutely honestly.

There are a few other points I want to make about this issue. This is from some of the readings that I have done like the Migration Council report and other notes in that. One of the things it says is that this legislation will require the employers to test the local labour market. I know how we do that in my area, and it will be interesting to see how that is developed with the regulation, because it needs to be done in a way that has integrity so it is really clear. It will need to be standardised like with the Fair Work Act, where we have those 10 principles. It will also need to be adaptable to certain areas and regions. That way, if we show to the community that that has been done and the employer has done it, we can say, 'Everything has been done on the ground to recruit and to give Australian citizens first go; we were not able to in this case, and therefore these people will need to come on a temporary basis and work and live in our community.' We shall welcome them because it is our obligation at the community level to welcome them into the community when they are coming to do jobs that we cannot recruit people in. Of itself, that will give integrity to the system. It will give reassurance to the community and allow employers to say, 'Yes, I need these workers here.' So we all need those benchmarks in a way that we can rely on them not just on paper and so that it is acculturated within the community so we know everything has been done.

The bill has other amendments—there are other things that is does—but that was one of the main ones I wanted to talk about. I want to finish on the coalition saying this needs bipartisanship. They have blown bipartisanship on asylum seekers. (Time expired)