Bosses face jail for hiring illegals
September 6, 2006 – 12:59PM
The Age (Melbourne)
Bosses who knowingly employ illegal workers will face jail terms under new laws set to be passed by federal parliament.
The Senate approved changes to migration laws imposing jail sentences of up to two years for employers who deliberately hire people who are not authorised to work in Australia, such as some tourists, illegal immigrants and people who have overstayed their visas.
The laws will also cover labour suppliers who knowingly refer unauthorised workers for employment.
In aggravated cases of exploitation of illegal workers, such as one involving slavery, forced labour or sexual servitude, employers could face imprisonment for up to five years.
Labor supported the bill but criticised the changes as long overdue.
Arts Minister Rod Kemp said the new laws would only punish employers if they deliberately employed an illegal worker, or were reckless to that fact.
He said the legislation was an appropriate response to Australians' concerns about illegal workers.
“This bill … addresses the government's long-held concerns about those seek to work illegally in Australia,” Senator Kemp said.
“Illegal work causes a number of problems for the Australian community.
“It takes job opportunities away from Australian citizens and lawful migrants.”
Some illegal work was linked to organised crime and people-trafficking, particularly in the sex industry, he said.
Australian Greens senator Kerry Nettle tried unsuccessfully to amend the laws so that asylum seekers and people living in Australia on bridging visas could work after 28 days.
Some asylum seekers had been on bridging visas for several years and they should have the right to work to support themselves, she said.
Labor's George Campbell said jail sentences would be an effective deterrent against businesses employing unauthorised workers.
“There has been no way in which we have been able to put pressure on employers who set out to exploit people who are in this country, whether illegally or as tourists,” he said.
“It's not before time that this legislation has been introduced.
“The proposed new offences will deter employers and labour suppliers from employing illegal workers or referring them for work.”
The laws will target sectors with a high number of illegal immigrants, such as the hospitality, construction, cleaning and sex industries.
The Migration Amendment (Employer Sanctions) Bill passed the Senate without amendments and now goes to the House of Representatives for approval.