Keith Pitt’s push for taskforce succeeds

Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Coalition Government has committed to establish a multi-agency taskforce to target unscrupulous labour hire contractors that exploit foreign workers.

Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt welcomed the news, saying he’d been pushing for the taskforce since May last year.

“I’ve had countless meetings and discussions with the relevant Ministers about this issue, and today’s announcement shows they share my concerns and are listening to their backbench,” Mr Pitt said.

“This is also a significant win for The Nationals, who at Federal Council in August voted unanimously to seek a multi-jurisdictional taskforce.”

Mr Pitt said allegations and complaints made to his office ranged from the underpayment and sexual exploitation of workers to tax evasion, visa breaches, racial discrimination, intimidation of farmers and overcrowding in private residential dwellings.

“Queensland Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan and I hosted a stakeholder forum in Brisbane last year. The very clear message we received from that meeting was that new legislation and further inquiries are not the answer,” Mr Pitt said.

“Stakeholders wanted real action. They said there needed to be greater enforcement of existing laws and greater cooperation between the many relevant agencies, across all three levels of Government.”

Mr Pitt said there had been countless reports and inquiries to examine the issue, with the first initiated in 1999 by The Honourable Phillip Ruddock MP.

“Quite frankly, in my view, the current Senate Inquiry into temporary work visas is a waste of taxpayers’ money and Parliamentary resources. We’ve already had two similar Senate inquires in recent years – the problem is widely known and well documented.

“The money would have been better spent on active enforcement and not another talk-fest.”

Mr Pitt said he looked forward to receiving more information about how the taskforce will be resourced and structured.

“I understand Immigration and Border Protection has significantly enhanced its investigative abilities in recent months, in preparation for the establishment of the Australian Border Force** (ABF),” he said.

“ABF’s investigation capabilities will be further supported with the establishment of this dedicated taskforce.

“Assistant Minister for Immigration Michaelia Cash has advised that the Fair Work Ombudsman and other regulatory agencies will join into the taskforce, to ensure that matters involving visa fraud and worker exploitation are investigated swiftly.

“The taskforce should focus on disrupting highly organised criminal networks, rather than simply carrying out surprise audits on law-abiding farms. 

“I will also be asking the Minister to establish a hotline or email address so that members of the public can lodge their allegations with the taskforce.”

Until then, allegations and tipoffs can be emailed to allegations@immi.gov.au.

The Government will formally announce further details about the multi-agency taskforce in coming days.

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