Migration Amendment (Skilling Australians Fund)

House of Representatives, 12 February 2018 
Watch Matt's Speech

Mr KEOGH (Burt) (18:00): In April last year, the Prime Minister told ABC's Sabra Lane that Australian jobs are for Australians, first and foremost. In that interview, he heralded this bill and he said that this would deliver on that promise—that commitment for employers to conduct and provide evidence of labour-market testing. As it actually turns out, as the member for Bruce so eloquently said, this legislation doesn't do that at all. What the government is doing with this piece of legislation is it's walking into this parliament and saying, 'Trust us.' And I'm sure, when the people of Australia hear those words from this government, they shudder in their boots. I can say from my experience in my short term in this House that when I hear this government say 'Trust us', I know that it's usually followed, around three to six months later, by my having to consider some amending legislation to fix the problem they created with the first piece of legislation. This government has form when it comes to the idea of 'Trust us.'

Here, what they want to do is say that, when it comes to labour-market testing, we'll hand it all over to the minister responsible, instead of making sure that this parliament guarantees that we have a proper labour-market testing regime to ensure that Australian jobs are first and foremost for Australians. So, instead of taking the approach that we would like them to do, they want to give this to the minister. When we look at the track record of this minister, when it comes to this minister saying 'Trust us,' let's just see what the stats show.

Interestingly, we have a bit of a tension here within the government. We have the employment department, which is responsible for job vacancies and skills shortage research, saying just 28 occupations are on the list of major skills shortages that it's identified. But then when we turn to the immigration department, there's a list of over 450 occupations where you can come in on a skilled migration visa for apparent 'skills shortages'. When this government has almost multiplied this by a factor of 10—more than 10, almost 20—the number of jobs that are available when compared to those that there's an actual shortage in, how on earth can we trust the minister to deliver a delegated piece of legislation that we can rely on, that we can have confidence in, that is actually going to make sure that Australian jobs go to Australians first? The difference here is quite critical to people in my electorate, as it is to people across Western Australia and the nation. You can't trust the Turnbull government when it comes to genuine labour-market testing. You can only trust Labor to deliver on actual labour-market testing.

If we look at the testimony given by the ACTU, they said, I think, 'Quite frankly, given the government's history on labour-market testing, why would you trust this government to implement a serious regime of labour-market testing? We just don't.' Well, neither do we in the Labor Party, and it's why the Leader of the Opposition introduced a private member's bill dealing with just this issue—to introduce more rigorous requirements for labour-market testing so that we could have it incorporated into the legislation of the country. Those amendments would make sure that there was an actual minimum period of advertising time—that this was conducted no more than four months before the job was going to be filled by a skilled visa; that it was targeted so that we were not just letting laissez faire immigration happen on different types of occupations. But, instead, the government doesn't want to go down that route. Who knows why? It's a very interesting problem for the government to create for itself. If it was so signed up to making sure that it protects Australian jobs, why not actually put it into Australian legislation? But, no.

Not only have they done that, of course; this just compounds all of the failures of the government when it comes to protecting Australian jobs and Australian incomes. Instead, what they want to do is let a whole heap of people come in and undermine the wages of Australians in their Australian jobs and, at the same time, you are taking away their penalty rate protections as well. I'm sure the people of Australia feel just so confident at home every day knowing that the government are looking after their jobs in such a way that they stand up and say to the people of Australia: 'It's okay. Just trust us.' When the people of Australia look at the form of the government, there is absolutely no way that when it comes to skilled migration and labour market testing that they are going to trust the government or the minister responsible.

Labor will fight hard. We will fight to make sure that there is strict labour market testing because, I can tell you, out there, in the real world, people are concerned about this. The member for Swan talked about small business. Only just the other weekend, when I was out doorknocking to the good people of Canning Vale, did a small business owner in construction raise with me his concerns about people who are coming into Australia without the adequate skill requirements and undermining Australian jobs on building and construction sites. That's what this government is delivering. Shame.