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New South Wales: Immigration Department raids Doyle's Restaurant, Sydney for illegal workers.

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Friday 14 May 2004

New South Wales: Immigration Department raids Doyle's Restaurant, Sydney for illegal workers


MARK COLVIN: The Immigration Department is today fending of f claims of heavy-handed tactics, after raids to find illegal workers at a number of Sydney restaurants. Twelve people were taken to the Villawood detention centre as a result of the raid - they face the prospect of deportation. 


All but one were employed in three popular seafood restaurants owned by the Doyle family, and the Doyles today are spitting chips. 


Liz Foschia reports. 


LIZ FOSCHIA: Staff at Doyle's Watsons Bay, Circular Quay and Fish Market restaurants were preparing for big lunchtime crowds when up to 50 immigration officers descended in simultaneous raids. 


The workers were told to freeze and produce identification. Eleven, mostly from Indonesia, were taken away. 


Peter Doyle says many of the workers had been with his family's business for a number of years and all had produced tax file numbers and bank account details when he employed them. 


He says yesterday's raid was unnecessarily disruptive. 


PETER DOYLE: My problem with the whole thing is if they thought we had a problem with that, why didn't they contact us and say to us, look, we think you've got a problem, we're going to work through this with you, let's see if we can resolve your problems and go forward from here.  


But it was just, you know, stormtrooper tactics where they came in right on lunchtime when we were opening, detained probably 80 to 90 per cent of our staff, stopped them from working, quite abrupt to the staff, the way they spoke to the staff, you know, asked questions - where's your ID? I didn't know we had to carry, you know, ID in Australia, but obviously you do now. 


LIZ FOSCHIA: But the Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone has rejected the criticism. 


Senator Vanstone says her department works closely with employers across a range of industries to help them check the legal status of their staff. 


AMANDA VANSTONE: This is not the first time that there has been illegal workers in the restaurant industry. I'm not… I don't know that it's the first time it's happened to Doyle's. I do know that some of their management had some training on this issue in 2002 and haven't used since then the facilities made available by the Department to assist in checking who's who. 


LIZ FOSCHIA: Joanne Johnston is the restaurant manager of another prominent Sydney restaurant, Otto's, which was raided just over a month ago, and two Nepalese nationals were detained. 


She's told ABC local radio in Sydney the restaurant now checks the visas of its workers regularly. 


JOANNE JOHNSTON: So once they're employed and all their paperwork checks out, which we send to immigration when they start, and we get the okay, from now on every three months we will have to send their details to immigration again to get them to say yea or nay. 


LIZ FOSCHIA: Robert Goldman from Restaurant Catering New South Wales says a big part of the problem is the huge shortage of staff in the industry. 


ROBERT GOLDMAN: It's aspirational to dine in restaurants, but it's not aspirational to work in restaurants. I'm the Chairman of the Group Employer Company as well and right now we have 300 vacancies for chefs.  


There is an extraordinary shortage of qualified chefs to be able to work in the industry, and solving the problem is something that we're trying to work with to develop mature age programs. We're trying to work with getting the hard-core unemployed maybe interested in working in the restaurant industry. It is very much of a social problem. 


LIZ FOSCHIA: Mr Goldman says while restaurants may make every attempt to comply with the law it's not often easy. 


ROBERT GOLDMAN: Maybe the Government has to put out a website that lists these sort of people so that a restaurateur could check the website and be able to see if the visas expire and they'll be able to check it.  


Apparently they have all the data. They showed up with all the names and so on and so forth, so they have the information. If there's a problem, we could see about fixing it rather trying to sensationalise it. It's not helping anybody. 


MARK COLVIN: Robert Goldman from Restaurant and Catering NSW, ending that report by Liz Foschia.