Federal Government must fix temporary migration system before it resumes

10 November 2021

The Federal Government’s plan to resume skilled temporary migration before wages have risen show it is more interested in pumping up corporate profits than giving opportunities to Australian workers, according to the Electrical Trades Union.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he wants temporary skilled migrants to return to Australia before the end of the year.

ETU National Assistant Secretary Michael Wright said the union has strong concerns about the Federal Government rushing to reinstate a broken system.

“The Reserve Bank’s quarterly monetary policy statement released last week shows there has been no meaningful wage growth and that there are serious risks that wages will remain weighed down for the foreseeable future,” Mr Wright said.

“Economics 101 says that if there is a skills shortage then wages would rise, but they’re not.

“Rather, there is a serious problem of employers failing to train the next generation of Australians and these short-term visas are just the easy way out.

“Future skills shortages need to be addressed with more training for local apprentices, not through temporary migration.

“Short term temporary migration is not a fix for the chronic underinvestment and underemphasis on skilling up Australians.

“The Government has failed to respond to two of its own reports from the Joint Standing Committee on Migration, highlighting problems with the temporary migration regime, yet seems intent on careening back into the old failed system.

“In 2016, a Migrant Worker Taskforce was established following multiple inquiries revealing the exploitation of migrant workers, culminating in an expose on the rampant wage theft and exploitation at the 7Eleven retail chain.

“After formal investigation into rates of exploitation of migrant workers in Australia in 2019, the taskforce made 22 recommendations aimed at improving workplace protections for migrant workers.

“The Federal Government accepted all recommendations ‘in principle’ but has so far not implemented any.

“We support permanent migration, which has been central to Australia’s recent history.

“Permanent migration means new Australians with the same rights as Australians, rather than temporary work visas that can be used by employers to exploit vulnerable people and undercut Australian conditions.

“The current temporary migration policies undermine wages and conditions, and import an at-risk workforce of effectively indentured labour.

“Migrant workers are paid less than Australian workers, have their wages stolen, aren’t paid superannuation, don’t receive overtime and are often poorly treated by employers.

“We cannot simply allow this system to begin again without a major overhaul.”

This article was publised on 10 November 2021.