If elected, the Labor party says it will also encourage temporary visa holders to consider permanent residency where the visa holders are working under successful arrangements and have priority skills which are in shortage in Australia.
With the Federal Election just days away, the Australian Labour Party (ALP), the main challenger to the current Liberal National coalition government, has announced its much-awaited migration policy that promises to build a stronger nation by implementing a robust but fair set of rules.
If Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison loses the election on 21 May, his rival Anthony Albanese will form the first Labor government in almost a decade.
Keeping in view Australia’s image as a successful multicultural nation in the world, Labor has said it favours permanent over temporary migration, “to create a nation of people with equal rights and a shared interest in our national success.”
However, the size and composition of the country’s migration intake will depend on a few factors like, “net overseas migration, its effects on employment and training opportunities for Australian residents, demographic trends and other factors, while responding to current and longer-term economic needs.”
They have kept in mind the employment needs of Australians over jobs offered to migrant workers by prioritising on the need to ensure job opportunities are offered to local workers first; temporary migration would never be used to undercut local wages, conditions or training opportunities. Australian businesses could use skilled temporary migrants only where a verifiable local skill-shortage exists.
Labor’s migration policy will be trying to restore public confidence in Australia’s temporary migration program and “ensure that temporary migration does not adversely affect the employment and training opportunities for Australians, particularly young people who suffer from higher rates of unemployment and underemployment.”
According to their just-announced policy, Labor will aim to reform the regional migration program and encourage skilled migrants to take up jobs in rural and regional locations only where skill gaps exist. They also want to highlight the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) program to enhance Australia’s international relationships. This scheme allows eligible Australian businesses to hire workers from 9 Pacific islands and Timor-Leste when there are not enough local workers available.
“As part of our commitment to the Pacific, we will review the Pacific labour mobility scheme to ensure Pacific islanders are given fair wages and are protected from exploitation,” the policy document says.
An important point made in the migration policy relates to exploitation of temporary migrant workers, who often end up underpaid and exploited by employers who abuse the system for cheap and disposable labour. The Labor policy document has stated that they will ensure measures are implemented to protect all migrants from exploitation, which will include:
a. requiring temporary migrants to be paid in accordance with Australian awards or enterprise agreements and to have their wages paid into an Australian bank account;
b. ensuring temporary migrants are protected by Australian workplace law and are not exploited through sham contracting or unethical labour hire practices give them; and
c. offering them ‘whistle-blower’ status if they are providing evidence of exploitation.
To ensure visa and work scams are not deployed to gain access to Australia’s labour market, the ALP will “combat all forms of people smuggling, trafficking and exploitation—by boat, plane or other means.”
The ALP has also promised to ensure that no migrant remains “permanently temporary.”
“We will align the permanent and temporary migration programs and ensure that, where appropriate, migrants have pathways to permanent visas and citizenship. We will encourage temporary visa holders to consider permanent residency where the visa holders are working under successful arrangements and have priority skills which are in shortage in Australia,” they have said.
The years leading up to the Federal Election have been dominated by Covid-19 and questions remain over whether Labor has managed to create any impact on voters. They have however, sought to capitalise on Mr Morrison’s pandemic response and apparent unpopularity.
Labor has severely criticised the Prime Minister’s holiday to Hawaii during bushfires that ravaged Australia in 2019-20. They have also come down hard on the government for slow procurement of vaccines, rises in cost of living and sluggish wage growth.