Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters MP, has welcomed yesterday’s announcement there will be a Senate Inquiry into the impact of Australia’s temporary work visa programs.
Ms Chesters said close scrutiny was long overdue.
“I have been a strong advocate on this issue and have raised my concerns in Parliament numerous times about the major flaws in the current temporary work visa system. It’s about time the Parliament acted.
“Investigations by Fair Work Australia reveal that people on temporary visas, particularly those employed by job hire agencies, are not being offered the same protections and conditions as Australian workers.
“This issue is a double-edged sword. Not only are we seeing the exploitation of those on temporary visas, we are also seeing businesses take on foreign workers rather than provide jobs for the local community.
"There are 1.1 million temporary working visa holders in Australia. In a period of high unemployment, it is time for a rethink of this system, particularly the impacts on young people.
“Here in the Bendigo region we have record high youth unemployment and yet we are seeing major local employers bring in large numbers of unskilled, overseas workers on 417 visas,” said Ms Chesters.
One example that has received local media attention is the case of DON-KR Castlemaine, one of the largest, single employers in the region. DON-KRC employs 1,200 at its Castlemaine factory and is increasingly using 417 visa workers to fill shifts – a trend which is replicated across many of the major employers in the region.
“I hear almost daily from locals – young and old – who have either had their shifts cut or have been unable to get work at all. It’s no coincidence that at same time our job market is being flooded with unskilled workers from overseas who are willing to work for below the award rates.
“With youth employment at 18.2% in Bendigo, this is just not acceptable.
“The current system is failing jobseekers, particularly young people, and creating an underclass of temporary overseas workers in Australian workplaces,” said Ms Chesters.
Ms Chesters encouraged people to make a submission to the senate inquiry by emailing their concerns and experiences to [email protected]