Thousands of Australian jobs in the offshore oil and gas sector are being threatened by the Federal Government’s sneaky means of issuing Special Purpose Visas to cheap overseas labourers.
Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash has used her Ministerial discretion to issue the visas, usually reserved for top dignitaries including the Royal Family and military attaches.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) this week took the Federal Government to the High Court to challenge the use of the visas.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said it was a disgraceful new way to open the back door to cheap foreign labour.
“We are now seeing the government hit new lows in its attempts to rob Australians of their jobs, by disregarding existing employment laws protecting ordinary workers,” Mr Crumlin said.
“These Special Purpose Visas have always been NON-WORK visas simply for visiting dignitaries.”
“To use them in this underhand way as work visas in the offshore oil and gas industry again displays this government’s contempt for hardworking Australians doing the heavy lifting in the country’s lucrative resources sector.”
Mr Crumlin stressed the industry was extremely dangerous, as brought home this week by the tragic death of seafarer Andrew Kelly, in an accident off the WA coast.
“It’s an inherently high safety risk environment, the highest in the country and the world, due to the isolated and unstable nature of seagoing work and the 24/7 requirements placed on seafarers,” he said.
“Bringing in low-paid, low-skilled workers increases those risks.”
Yet these hugely profitable companies are looking to import cheap workers, who don’t have to pay tax in Australia and with no security checks or Australian-approved skill sets.
“Instead of protecting Australians working in an essential national industry, the Federal Government is helping to royally flush them down the drain.”
The Abbott Government has taken three significant steps to undermine Australian participation in offshore oil and gas projects. It has:
• Introduced a Bill to repeal the Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Act 2013 (ORA ACT) that was passed by the Parliament in 2013 to address a flaw in Australia's migration law following a Federal Court judgment in the Allseas case that found certain groups of workers were not within the migration zone and did not require visas to work in Australia.
• Introduced a Regulation under the ORA Act that specified an inappropriate visa class as a work visa to conform with the ORA Act (the Maritime Crew Visa, which is a transit visa for visiting international seafarers, not a work visa) and;
When the Senate rightly disallowed the regulation specifying that visa, introduced a Ministerial Determination ('Immi 14/077') effectively making the ORA Act null and void in complete disregard to the wishes of the Parliament. Following the decision of Justice Buchanan of the Federal Court on 15 September 2014 which validated the use by the Government of Ministerial Determination 'Immi 14/077', the MUA and AMOU appealed the decision to the Full Court of the Federal Court.