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Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Page: 8823


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (18:07): I seek leave to move a second tranche of amendments—to increase penalties for sponsors—amendment Nos (20), (21), (24), (31) and (38).

Leave granted.

Senator KIM CARR: I move opposition amendments (20), (21), (24), (31) and (38):

(20) Schedule 1, item 6, page 6 (line 12), omit "2 years or 360 penalty units", substitute "4 years or 720 penalty units".

(21) Schedule 1, item 6, page 6 (line 16), omit "240 penalty units", substitute "480 penalty units".

(24) Schedule 1, item 6, page 6 (line 29), omit "240 penalty units", substitute "480 penalty units".

(31) Schedule 1, item 6, page 7 (line 21), omit "360 penalty units", substitute "720 penalty units".

(38) Schedule 1, item 6, page 8 (line 20), omit "240 penalty units", substitute "480 penalty units".

The current bill has a criminal offence of a maximum of two years in prison or a fine of $64,800 for individuals, or $324,000 for a corporate body, and civil offences with a maximum fine of $43,200 for individuals and $324,000 for corporate bodies. It is my view that this penalty regime is too lenient to be an effective deterrent.

The evidence is that financial gains from committing offences against visa holders can be as much as $70,000 for an individual visa holder and up to $700,000 for a sponsor dealing with multiple visa holders. It may well be that people feel there is an advantage in terms of profiting from the exploitation of cheap labour under these circumstances. It clearly is not a humane approach for this parliament to take to allow such actions to continue. Clearly the government recognises this; that is why they have proposed changes to the 457 visa arrangements.

However, the penalty regime remains far too low and will undermine the intent of this bill—by a simple measure: an employer that wants to exploit these people in this way will still be able to make very substantial profits out of it. So Labor's amendments provide for penalties set out in the bill to effectively be doubled.