We must protect innocent bystanders

2 August, 2023

Firstly, I congratulate the member for Holt on her address and for bringing to the parliament her personal experience of what happened to her and her family. One of the good parts about this place is that the parliament attracts a diversity of people, and the member for Holt has obviously risen above the outcomes and did not remain cynical about the approach of Australian employers in this country. She obviously joined the Labor Party. I would have suggested she might have joined the Liberal Party had she been thinking correctly at the time, but she joined the Labor Party, and she's ended up right here in this parliament as the member for Holt in the House of Representatives. Obviously, she made the point that there are people out there who are without the control of government.

I would also offer the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs my great congratulations on his 50th birthday. Mine was 22 years ago, and he sounds very young, but I certainly congratulate Andrew. Andrew has been a friend in this House for a long time. Andrew, I congratulate you on your 50th birthday, which is a very significant birthday in the life of anyone, especially when you are a member of parliament and you have some very difficult issues to face. These issues have been brought to our attention by the member for Holt, and there will be legislation covering these things.

All governments, going back to Labor governments before the coalition government, know that we can't find around 60,000 people in Australia. We don't know where they are. We don't know where they're working. We are able, at different times, to put in a task force and go and find as many people as possible and see who's exploiting the system.

But there must be a proviso here, and I hope that will be in the legislation. That proviso is this: let it not be a witch hunt for employers who break the rules without knowing they're breaking the rules—for those people who legitimately think that they're paying the award rate when there have been changes that weren't brought to their attention, as has happened with some of the biggest organisations in Australia, who all believed they were paying their employees correctly, and they weren't.

The member for Holt was talking about something totally different to that misunderstanding of the award or whatever the big banks and other people claim. You're talking about direct exploitation of workers for the benefit of that organisation, especially migrant workers who come here. Why do they come? Why do we give many of them a visa to come directly to Australia? That is because they are in another country of their own and they are in difficult circumstances like we would not understand in this country. Families come to this country with hope, a view to gain some control of their lives and, most importantly, the desire to belong. They come to this nation to belong.

To be exploited when you first come here with all your hopes and dreams put before you—your first job as a migrant, and you are seen to be a second-class citizen straight off. What you thought you were coming to isn't your experience immediately. You then need to have leaders in your community to go to, a union to go to, a mentor to go to—someone to tell, 'This is happening to me.' But too often they haven't got the contacts and those sorts of abilities to say this, and they are too frightened of their experience. They have a job. 'If I go to another one, does the same thing happened to me? Is it any different with the next employer?' That question would have to be asked.

So I thank the member for Holt for bringing this to the attention of the parliament. I look forward to the introduction of that legislation into the parliament, and I actually hope it achieves all that it sets out to achieve. But I remind everybody: let there be clear winners in this place and not innocent bystanders knocked over by the legislation.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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