AREEA believes it is important that penalties are in place to deter businesses and individuals from hiring illegal workers from overseas. However, AREEA believes the existing framework is sufficient provided there is greater awareness of the current penalties and sanctions against employers who do the wrong thing.
While it is important that penalties are in place to deter businesses and individuals in respect of work by non-citizens, the significant number of strong measures in the exposure draft of the Migration Amendment (Reform of Employer Sanctions) Bill 2012 would impose disproportionate cost and inconvenience on resource industry employers, even though work by non-citizens has not been identified as a significant occurrence within the resource industry.
Overall, it is imperative that the cost of doing business is balanced appropriately against the cost of ensuring compliance with migration laws. The Howells Review found that the existing employer sanctions framework had not been an effective educational tool for employers.
A rectification of this through a reinvigorated awareness campaign targeted at high-risk industries, coupled with the existing criminal sanctions, will deter non-compliant behaviour and maximise voluntary compliance, while avoiding unnecessary costs to business.
1. That a targeted awareness strategy be engaged in as a first priority, and civil provisions with strict liability be deferred until effective educational campaigns have occurred, particularly in high-risk sectors. This will ensure that greater compliance burdens are not placed unnecessarily on all employers in all sectors as a result of the actions of a few.
2. That the responsibility for compliance be with the direct employer, not the host. The current arrangements should continue, where labour hire agencies and subcontractors, as the direct employers, rather than the host employers or head contractors, take responsibility for the employment status of the workers they refer. This will ensure that employers are responsible for the actions that are within their control.
3. That proposals to: extend liability for offences to executive officers; introduce new information gathering powers including search warrants; and remove protections against self-incrimination should not form part of the final Bill as they represent a departure from standard practice in such areas.
4. That the availability of Enterprise Migration Agreements be supported and facilitated. This will reduce illegal work by enabling non-citizens to work lawfully, ensuring full checks and balances on their employment eligibility status before commencing work in Australia.
These recommendations will be discussed in the full submission here.