Turnbull’s new found love of visa regulation is just smoke and mirrors

Published: 20 May 2016

The Turnbull Government’s announcement that they will regulate to stop systemic wage fraud and add $20 million to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s budget is nothing other than a pretend fix to the problem his Government is responsible for, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy union has said today.

“It is an audacious claim by Turnbull to say that he will put an extra $20 million into the FWO, after announcing in the Budget three weeks ago that the agency would lose 10 per cent of its funding, and 27 staff,” commented CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor.

“Already in terms of visa workers there are only 17 FWO inspectors to deal with 1.4 million foreign workers currently in Australia who have working rights.”

“For a whole year the Liberals dragged their feet on the outrageous exploitation of 7-11 workers. There are current penalties under the Migration Act of $81,000 for companies per worker for breaches of working visa conditions. And yet the Government has done nothing.

“While unions, academics, welfare groups and ethnic communities have been warning of exploitation for 3 years, now miraculously come election time, they want to increase penalties and give the FWO more investigatory powers.

“The simple truth is the Turnbull Government can’t be trusted. Every promise they have made before the election, everything Turnbull said before he became the Prime Minister, he has reneged on.

“Not coincidentally, the FWO funding was also cut in the previous budget at the same time as the so-called Fair Work Building Inspectorate budget was increased by the same amount despite the fact that they stopped investigating wage fraud and sham contracting and handed over that work to the FWO.

“In this year’s Budget the FWBI will add 24 staff to its payroll. The only conclusion to draw from this is that whilst pretending to be dealing with the exploitation of foreign workers what this Government is actually doing is going after Australian workers and their unions.

“When you add in the expected influx of workers from China and India due to the terrible free trade deals done, you understand clearly that far from protecting Australian jobs and wages and giving Australians opportunities to work, this Government’s greatest wish is to destroy them,” Mr O’Connor concluded.