A petition calling on Australian Senators to vote against the Abbott Government’s move to water down visa regulations applying to foreign workers in the offshore sector has quickly gathered pace with 12,000 signatures.
The petition calls on Senators to (a) vote against the Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Repeal Bill 2014; and (b) act to prevent the Federal Government from continuing to issue Maritime Crew (subclass 988) visas to foreign workers for the purposes of working in Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry.
Maritime Union of Australia National Secretary Paddy Crumlin dismissed Australian Mines and Metals Association’s claims of threatening Australian jobs as arrant nonsense.
“AMMA is trying to devise a set of rules whereby there is no obligation to employ any Australians at all,” Mr Crumlin.
“They also want to remove any background checks for offshore workers, which has massive implications for national security.
“Add to this the fact that that maritime skills and training base would be decimated and what you have is AMMA’s recipe for disaster in the offshore.”
He said the move toward utilising Maritime Crew Visas (MCVs), which have significantly less checks and balances than any other temporary visa class, would put both foreign workers and the Australian community at risk.
“The Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Richard Marles has rightly pointed out that Maritime Crew Visas were never intended for use in the offshore resources industry,” Mr Crumlin said.
“They lack protections against exploitation of workers and offer zero protections for Australians from potential security breaches. On behalf of Australian maritime workers and the community more broadly we are grateful to Mr Marles for his awareness-raising on this critical issue ahead of this week’s vote.”
Mr Crumlin pointed to the long history of foreign workers on Maritime Crew Visas escaping immigration and disappearing permanently into the community.
“Just last week two Vietnamese crew on MCVs went missing in Newcastle. A few months ago seven crew disappeared off an Egyptian vessel. Hundreds have disappeared in recent years and very few have ever been found again,” he said.
“Why on earth would we then be looking to expand this visa class into the offshore sector? Why would be creating conditions to replace quality Australian jobs with positions available only to overseas workers with loose visa conditions? It beggars belief. We know the big offshore multinationals aren’t too concerned about losing a steady stream of overseas workers, they are able to source more. But it is a major concern for Australian jobs and Australian security.”
Mr Crumlin urged Parliamentarians to consider carefully what the Abbott Government was trying to slip in via regulation.
“Disallowance of the government’s regulation is now scheduled for tomorrow,” he said.
“We are urging all Parliamentarians to familiarise themselves with the tattered record of Maritime Crew Visas and to ensure the government is not allowed to undermine our border security and Australian jobs via the backdoor.”
WA Branch Secretary Christy Cain, who represents a sizable number of offshore seafarers, said the Government should be looking at ways to preserve Australian jobs, not undermine them.
“There are more than 400 qualified and work-ready seafarers raring to go right this moment, some have been unemployed for a long time” Mr Cain said.
“Does the Government want the burden of another couple of thousand unemployed? Because that’s definitely what will happen if we allow the offshore companies access to the MCV.”
The Australian Maritime Officers Union was also worried about the implications the MCV would have on the wider Australian economy. AMOU President Wayne Moore said MCV holders were not required to pay any tax in Australia because of the nature of the visa.
"Collectively seafarers and officers engaged in the offshore sector pay millions of dollars in tax each year," Mr Moore said.
"To force Australian workers into unemployment, thus increasing welfare dependency, while at the same time decreasing tax revenues just doesn't make any economic sense to me."
Mr Moore said an MCV would be detrimental to building maritime skills in Australia as currently half of all students enrolled for certificates of competency come from the offshore oil and gas sector.
“We already have a situation where foreign workers are creating a glass ceiling for deck officers as the jobs are simply not being made available for locals to enable them to up skill. The MCV will undoubtedly make this situation worse,” he said.
MUA Contact: Darrin Barnett 0428 119 703
AMOU Contact: Dan Pearson, firstname.lastname@example.org