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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2102

Mr TIM WILSON (Goldstein) (17:02): As always it's a great pleasure to represent the Goldstein electorate in this hallowed chamber and to have the opportunity to address a piece of legislation as important as this. My remarks will be relatively brief. The reality is that the core focus of this bill, as part of many that are being introduced in the migration space, is to build a greater sense of confidence and integrity in our migration system for Australians. As a nation we have always welcomed people from across the world and we must continue to do so. Migrants have made an incredible contribution to the building of this nation as new Australians at all stages, all the way from the beginning of those who have settled on this continent, and we should continue to support the arrival of new Australians onto our shores to help build Australia's future.

Having a system of integrity around our migration system is incredibly important to build that confidence, public trust and respect. That includes people, of course, who are seeking migration pathways as a consequence of fleeing from persecution or conflict overseas through the pathway of being an asylum seeker, all the way through to people who are skilled migrants or family reunions. At every stage there has to be confidence in the migration system to make sure that Australians know that the people they are letting into our country to help build its future are part of a positive contribution, that their identities are security checked and that there is proper integrity in the process.

That is what this bill seeks to do, by allowing the public disclosure of sponsor sanctions related to the consequences of people breaching visas. It will allow the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to collect records, store and use the tax file numbers of certain visa holders for compliance and research purposes. It will provide certainty around when merits review is available for visas that require an approved nomination, and allow the department to enter an enforceable undertaking with a sponsor who has breached their sponsor obligations related to work visas. These measures complement and are part of the significant reform package to abolish the subclass 457 visa and replace it with a new temporary skill shortage visa.

Let's not understate the importance of skills and providing migration pathways for skills and high-value skill into this country. Many businesses or people who work within businesses in the Goldstein electorate need visa classes to enable skilled migrants to come to this country. They often form the foundation of much of the skills base that is sometimes lacking within our country. In fact, I've had a number of businesses who've come to see me recently about these changes. They are conscious of the impact that sits upon them and their businesses where they may have skills shortages. What this bill will enable people to do is make sure that they can continue to address skills shortages as part of the migration system. Equally, we can make sure that, as part of the total package of these measures, those businesses that can provide Australian jobs will provide Australian jobs.

The measures in this bill will apply to temporary and permanent sponsored skilled work visas, which includes the 457 visa and its replacement, the temporary skill shortage visa. These measures strengthen the integrity of these visa programs and protect Australians and overseas workers. The bill proposes to amend the Migration Act to allow the public disclosure of information concerning businesses that are sanctioned for breaching their sponsor obligations. This information will be published on the department's website. To make sure that businesses are forthright, honest and do the right thing by Australians and the workers that they seek to bring to this country, information released will include the sponsor obligation that was breached, the sanction that was imposed and the details of the business. Sponsor obligations are in place to protect the wages and conditions of Australian and overseas workers and to ensure skilled work programs are used only when an Australian is not available. Currently the department is only able to publicly release limited information regarding breaches. Whilst the department's annual report includes aggregate data on sponsor sanctions, it does not contain details of the companies that breach their obligations or the penalties that were issued. The presently available information is not enough to inform the public about the businesses that do the wrong thing. It is a critical part of making sure there is appropriate accountability in the system to build public confidence.

The bill also proposes to amend the Migration Act to provide certainty around when merits review is available for visas that require an approved nomination. The measure will clarify the situations in which review is available. It will clarify that review rights are determined at the time a decision to refuse a visa is made.

The bill also proposes to amend the Migration Act, Income Tax Assessment Act and the Taxation Administration Act to allow the department to collect, record, store and use the tax file numbers associated with temporary and permanent skilled visas for compliance and for research purposes as the foundation for making sure that this government and future governments make informed decisions so that migration advances the interests of Australians. It is proposed that the Migration Regulations will provide for the sharing of tax file numbers associated with temporary and skilled visas, including the subclass 457 visa. Enhanced data matching through tax file number sharing will improve the department's ability to perform the research and trend analysis that underpins the development of visa policy, something I think everybody in this House should encourage and want to see more of. The department will use tax file numbers to match and access data, including the salary data held by the ATO, so that people make sure they pay their proper investment in this country as part of the enjoyment of continuing to seek employment here. Whilst the department already conducts data sharing with the Australian Taxation Office, it does not have the authority to collect or store tax file numbers for this purpose. The data will assist the department to undertake more streamlined, targeted and effective compliance activity to identify employers who breach their obligations, including by underpaying visa holders, and visa holders working for more than one employer in breach of the visa conditions. TFNs will also improve the department's ability to undertake research and trend analysis. This will provide an additional evidence base for the department in developing skilled visa policy. In order to achieve these goals it is also proposed that the department would be able to store tax file numbers if they are provided during the visa application process, and it is proposed to amend the Migration Act so the department can enter into enforceable undertakings with sponsors who have breached their obligations. This provides the department and sponsors with an additional remedy to address breaches.

The issues around migration are often raised with me by the Goldstein community because people want to have a strong sense of confidence in the operation of our migration system. We have had a number of debates within this parliament over a long period of time, looking at different methods in which people seek visas to be able to enter this country for work purposes, for family reunions and also for the purposes of seeking asylum. The more integrity we have around all aspects of our system, the more likely it is that we can continue to retain and increase public confidence in the migration system and make sure we remain a country open to the world. One of the worst things that we can do as a nation is to undermine that sense of public confidence.

We have all, either directly or through our ancestry, come to this great land and this great continent, wanting to invest in and build its future, and continuing migration is a critical part of that story. But to do so we need public confidence, which is delivered in this bill as well as many other bills as part of this package. These bills will help continue to restore that sense of public confidence and trust that can only be delivered by a Turnbull coalition government.