Standing up for venerable workers

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Thursday 7 March 2019

Media Release
  • Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations
  • Minister for Women

The Coalition Government has no tolerance for exploitation in Australian workplaces and is continuing to take action to protect vulnerable workers.

Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, said the Coalition Government has accepted in principle all 22 recommendations of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce Report and is building on measures already introduced to protect vulnerable workers.

“The exploitation of workers in Australian workplaces is not only illegal, it harms individuals, undercuts law-abiding employers and reflects poorly on Australia’s international reputation,” Minster O’Dwyer said.

“The Coalition Government has no tolerance for those who repeatedly and deliberately underpay workers, whether they are an Australian or a worker on a visa. For the very first time we will introduce criminal sanctions for the most serious and egregious forms of deliberate exploitation of workers.”

“Only the most serious and egregious cases would be subject to criminal penalties, not employers that accidently or inadvertently do the wrong thing.”

The Government has also recently provided the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) with an additional $14.4 million to focus on the protection of migrant workers. This further funding follows an extra $20.1 million provided to the FWO in 2016-17 to crackdown on law breaking.

In addition, the Government will finalise a model for a National Labour Hire Registration Scheme which will reduce worker exploitation and drive behavioural change among labour hire operators in high-risk sectors.

“These reforms build on the already unprecedented actions taken by the Coalition Government to protect vulnerable workers and their entitlements,” Minister O’Dwyer said.

“We have taken action to protect vulnerable workers by introducing tough new laws, increasing penalties tenfold, and providing additional funding and strengthening the investigative powers of the FWO.”

The Government has also provided $20.9 million to the Australian Taxation Office to establish the Superannuation Guarantee Taskforce and introduced new laws which for the first time enables the ATO to seek criminal penalties for employers who refuse to pay workers superannuation.

The Government will now consult closely with stakeholders as it works through each of the recommendations of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce and as it carefully considers the circumstances and most appropriate legislative vehicle to give effect to criminal sanctions.

The Taskforce was established by the Government in October 2016 to look at ways to better protect migrant workers from underpayment and exploitation in Australian workplaces and provided its final report to Government in February 2019.

The Government thanks Taskforce Chair, Professor Allan Fels AO, and Deputy Chair, David Cousins AM, for their expertise in leading the Taskforce and providing a comprehensive and detailed report.

Anyone who has concerns about underpayment issues should contact either the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94 or the anonymous tip-off service: www.fairwork.gov.au/tipoff

To read the report and the Government’s full response, visit: https://www.jobs.gov.au/migrant-workers-taskforce