Chair’s Public Statement February 2018 meeting

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Chair's Public Statement
Professor Allan Fels AO

The Migrant Workers’ Taskforce held its seventh meeting on 9 February 2018 in Canberra. I thank members for their continued contributions to this important issue.

Other meetings and correspondence

Taskforce Deputy Chair, Dr. David Cousins AM provided the Taskforce with an update on recent meetings he had in the United Kingdom with representatives from the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority, and Labour Market Enforcement. The Taskforce discussed labour market compliance in the United Kingdom and the strategic coordination role undertaken by the Director of Labour Market Enforcement.

The Taskforce will continue to examine work being undertaken internationally to assess its possible application to the Australian labour market.

Dr Cousins also reported on his meeting with the Student Services Delivery Working Group of the Council for International Education.

The Taskforce also welcomed a submission from the Melbourne University Law School and agreed after preliminary discussion to further consider the issues and proposals raised.

Research update

The Taskforce received a presentation from the Department of Jobs and Small Business on the research project into what communication channels work best for migrant workers, as agreed to at its January 2017 meeting. The research project, jointly undertaken by the Department of Jobs and Small Business and the Fair Work Ombudsman, sought to understand how government can best communicate workplace information to migrant workers. The research was conducted in 12 languages and included an online survey, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews with migrant workers and stakeholders.

The Taskforce agreed that the initial findings from the research were useful, and discussion focused on areas for improvement and refinement of government materials. I urge Taskforce agencies to continue to work collaboratively to improve government communications with visa holders, so that migrant workers receive accurate and timely information on their workplace rights and obligations.

Report of the Taskforce to Government

The Taskforce also discussed its report to Government which will be finalised in the first half of 2018.

The Taskforce is making good progress in identifying areas where improvements can be made to deliver better protections for overseas workers in Australia. Keys areas under consideration by the Taskforce include addressing unscrupulous practices of labour hire operators; considering ways to provide better access to justice for migrant workers including ways to more quickly and effectively address wage underpayments and identifying areas of overlap; improving coordination between government enforcement agencies to ensure that compliance and enforcement efforts are effective; and addressing exploitation of student visa holders and migrant workers in the agricultural industry.

The Taskforce is also considering the provision and availability of suitable accommodation for temporary visa holders, particularly working holiday makers.

Next steps

The Taskforce will meet again in March 2018.