VISA requirements proposed for foreign workers on offshore resource projects will be eased, as the Abbott government seeks to bypass the Senate and introduce new arrangements through regulation.
The Australian, by Ewin Hannan, 30 May 2014
The Coalition has failed to repeal legislation, due to come into operation next month, that was introduced by the former Labor government to regulate the employment of foreign workers on offshore projects.
The legislation amended the Migration Act to ensure people working in an “offshore resources activity” were deemed to be in Australia’s migration zone. Foreign workers would be required to hold an “offshore resources visa” or permanent visa.
However, the Assistant Minister for Immigration, Michaelia Cash, will today unveil new regulations that seek to remove the need for the new visa to apply to foreign workers on offshore projects.
Under the new arrangements, offshore workers subject to Labor’s legislation would need only to hold a permanent, maritime crew, temporary work, or 457 visa.
Senator Cash said while the government would continue to pursue the repeal of the Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Act, the new regulations had been designed to “ensure minimal regulatory impact’’.
“The government understands the value of the offshore oil and gas industry to the national economy,” she said. “We are concerned that the ORA act will impose an additional regulatory burden and additional costs on this critical sector and have done our very best to ensure that this does not occur.
“The new visas use existing visas that the industry is already familiar with. This will make it easier to manage the transition, and avoid the costs of developing and implementing a new visa.”
The Australian Mines and Metals Association last night welcomed the changes.
“Every other country in the world regulates employment on offshore projects only within their proper territorial jurisdiction,’’ said executive director Scott Barklamb.
“At the behest of unions, Labor imposed punitive regulation for regulation’s sake. The resource industry welcomes the government’s commitment to repeal legislation that should never have been imposed.”
Mr Barklamb said that the Labor legislation did nothing to protect the jobs of Australian workers.
But the Maritime Union of Australia, which had campaigned for Labor’s legislation, slammed the changes.
“Tony Abbott wants to cancel unemployment benefits for young people and force them to move across the country for jobs,’’ the union’s Western Australian secretary Christy Cain said.
“At the same time, he wants to open the floodgates for foreign workers to compete for those jobs.
“This just doesn’t make sense and it is not in the national interest.’’