New Employment Minister Already Has Form in Allowing Cheap Foreign Labour

New Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has shown he wants to keep employment and industrial relations as an ideological battleground with his surprise decision to promote Western Australian Senator Michaelia Cash to Minister for Employment

Senator Cash, well-known by the Maritime Union of Australia for thumbing her nose at the Senate and insisting on the use of cheap, foreign labour in the offshore oil and gas sector, was formerly a senior industrial relations lawyer at union-busting legal firm, Freehills.

With unemployment currently stuck above six per cent, many were surprised by the decisions of Senator Cash as Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in overseeing a substantial increase in temporary work visa programs.

The appointment of Senator Cash follows the decision late last week by outgoing Minister Eric Abetz to promote or commission four ideological warriors at the Fair Work Commission in his final act before getting the chop.

“Many see Malcolm Turnbull as a left-leaning progressive with his historical stance on issues such as marriage equality, climate change and the republic,” MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

“Not only has he walked away from those key issues in his bid to wrest leadership of his party but it doesn’t look like industrial relations will get any better either.

“Senator Cash has shown a singular stubbornness and inflexibility on standing up for Australian jobs, rivaled only by her predecessor Eric Abetz. The new Minister appears to be anti-union and anti-Australian worker.”

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 import cheap overseas workers.

The High Court last month agreed to hear the case brought by the MUA and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) involving the Government’s use of visas normally reserved for royal guests and overseas dignitaries.

Under Senator Cash’s watch, The Abbott/Turnbull 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.  

“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,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Unemployment is around 800,000 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.

“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.”

Mr Crumlin urged Senator Cash to follow her own advice when speaking in the Senate on June 28, 2013, following another change of prime minister:

“You can take the photograph away and put up another photograph, but guess what? Unless you change the direction of your policy, unless you realise that you have made mistakes, the Australian people will judge you.” – Senator Michaelia Cash, Australian Senate, June 28, 2013.

“It is time for Senator Cash and Prime Minister Turnbull to admit their mistakes and instead stand up for Australian jobs and Australian workers,” Mr Crumlin said.