Workplace express: Coalition adds Allseas bill to repeal list

The Coalition has added the former Labor government's legislation extending Australia's migration zone to cover all offshore resources activity to the "red tape" it is targeting for repeal.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Repeal Bill 2014, introduced into federal parliament today, would if passed remove Labor's answer to the Federal Court's 2012 Allseas ruling.

Labor's Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Bill 2013 amended the Migration Act 1950 to provide that anyone participating in, or supporting, an offshore resources activity is taken to be in the Australian migration zone.

This followed the Federal Court finding that two vessels of Swiss-based Allseas Construction were not operating inside Australia's "migration zone" as defined in s5(1) of the Act while installing pipelines for the Gorgon and Jansz gas fields, and as a result were not breaching any Australian laws by engaging non-citizens without 457 visas (see Related Article).

Labor's legislation received Royal Assent on June 29 last year but its operative provisions were not due to start until June 30 this year.

According to the explanatory memorandum to today's Bill, workers on foreign vessels "are not recruited by project and are all remunerated in common packages as per international maritime industrial law and standards".

"The workers would be a range of low to highly skilled occupations and would reflect broad international nationalities, which may require visas depending on their status as Australian/citizens, already holding a visa (eg 457) or non-visaed.

"The visa therefore, is simply a red tape, bureaucratic process to confirm the status of a foreign national in the migration zone."

The AMMA welcomed the repeal measure, with executive director Scott Barklamb maintaining Labor's legislation was "a relic of the 2013 election year, delivered by Labor and the Greens at the behest of trade unions whipping up false panic on foreign workers".

"Extending Australia’s migration zone to regulate offshore activities in this way was never in our national interest. It is completely at odds with how offshore resource projects are built and regulated anywhere in the world."

MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said when Labor introduced its bill last year that it provided a "level playing field so that all workers, irrespective of origin, can now have their migration status regulated and hence their employment standards regulated".

"The Bill will end the exploitation of temporary guest workers in the offshore oil and gas industry, and will ensure that employment, safety, training and occupational licensing requirements can be brought up to Australian legal and industrial standards," he said.

The Coalition's Bill is facing a Labor-Greens dominated Senate until July 1.

This article appeared in Workplace Express on Thursday, March 27.