The High Court today agreed to hear the case involving the Abbott Government’s use of visas for cheap foreign labour in the offshore oil and gas sector that are normally reserved for royal guests and overseas dignitaries.
In a hearing in Sydney, Her Honour Justice Bell accepted the argument that the case is important and therefore should be kept in the High Court.
‘In light of the importance of the matter the court will not be remitting the case to the Federal Court,’ Justice Bell told the hearing.
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 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) have taken the Federal Government to the High Court to challenge the use of the visas.
MUA Deputy National Secretary Will Tracey said Justice Bell had outlined a further directions hearing in Canberra in seven weeks time ahead of a trial anticipated to take place early next year.
“A similar case has already been heard by the full Federal Court and the MUA thinks the High Court is the appropriate jurisdiction,” Mr Tracey said.
“Justice Bell’s acceptance of the MUA’s argument for the case to be heard in the High Court is an important first step.
“The Abbott Government has already been defeated in the Senate and the full Federal Court and it simply beggars belief that they continue to try to deny Australian workers the capacity to work in their own country.
“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 the Abbott Government’s contempt for hardworking Australians doing the heavy lifting in the country’s lucrative resources sector.
“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.”
The Abbott Government has taken four 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. The introduction of the ORA followed 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). This was disallowed by the Senate;
• Following the disallowance, within 24 hours introduced a Ministerial Determination ('Immi 14/077') effectively making the ORA Act null and void in complete disregard to the wishes of the Parliament. The MUA and AMOU successfully appealed the decision to the Full Court of the Federal Court.
• Following the Full Federal Court decision, within 24 hours introduced another determination (‘Immi 15/073’) to again allow cheap foreign labour in the offshore oil and gas sector. The MUA and AMOU are currently pursuing this in the High Court.
Yet Senator Cash had the temerity this week to say criticism of the Abbott Government was based on personalities.
"You may not like us as individuals, I can accept that. But look at the policies, look at our achievements." Senator Michaelia Cash - Sky News 18/8/2015
“This isn’t about personalities; it’s about rotten policies from the Abbott Government,” Mr Tracey said.
“Unemployment is over 800,000 for the first time in 20 years and rather than address the jobs crisis, Senator Cash wants to sell out Australian jobs on behalf of her mates in big oil and gas companies.
“It’s about time Senator Cash and the Prime Minister stood up for Australian jobs and Australian workers.”