New laws to crackdown on illegal workers in Australia

by Ray Clancy on December 12, 2011

in Australia Immigration

Government ensure sanctions and penalities for those exploiting foreign workers

The Australian government is to introduce new laws next year to crack down on the hiring of illegal workers, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, has announced.

The move follows public consultations on the findings of an independent review of the penalties and enforcement arrangements for businesses employing non-citizens working in Australia without permission.

Bowen said the independent review by legal expert Stephen Howells, released in July this year, showed that the previous Howard government’s failure to implement an effective penalty regime impeded the ability to take action against employers doing the wrong thing.

‘This government is committed to getting tough on dodgy employers and ensuring we have an effective sanctions regime in place to punish those who wilfully exploit foreign workers,’ Bowen said.

‘The new laws will establish civil penalties of up to $50,000 and fines of up to $10,000 for corporate bodies, and civil penalties and fines of up to $10,000 and $2,000 respectively for individuals for the employing or referring of illegal workers. This clearly addresses the deficiencies in the existing laws, as identified by the Howells Review,’ he explained.

Bowen said the government had also taken employers’ concerns on board, with the new laws to include significant protections in the form of statutory safeguards for employers that do the right thing by checking work entitlements.

‘The Howells Review showed that more needed to be done to make the existing sanctions more effective in deterring these illegal work practices. By introducing this suite of new laws, the government is taking action on recalcitrant employers, but also protecting and supporting those who comply with the laws,’ he added.

An extensive awareness and education campaign will be launched before the new laws take effect to ensure employers and labour suppliers know how to comply with the new regime.

The new laws will also be accompanied by changes to the Visa Entitlement Verification Online, or VEVO system, to improve access and usability.

More information on the proposed changes, along with the Howells Review, can be found on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s website.VEVO is a free service provided by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship that enables visa holders, employers and recruitment agencies to check visa status and work entitlements.

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