Tuesday, 29 November
Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (20:24): This amendment provides all senators with a rare opportunity to address the issue of jobs, something that we hear so much about in this place and an area where we can make a real difference. I very much welcome the amendment, which is actually very similar to some amendments the Greens put forward—so similar, in fact, that the last line of this amendment is what we had in ours. But this one has popped up first, and we are keen to support it. It is important not just because it is about jobs but because it is about jobs in the context of this ABCC legislation. Currently there is no provision to ensure that Australian resident workers can get a job before those on temporary work visas. The bill includes a requirement for the building code, a very extensive code, to regulate what conditions apply on building projects. Employers that fail to comply with the code will be unable to work on government funded projects. So, there is a real complexity here around the issue of work.
For the Greens, the way we see this playing out and the reason we think this amendment is so important and that surely everybody should see their way through to support it is that if the position is advertised locally and a local is qualified and the right person for the job, then the system has worked, because the local person has a job. But if there is not a local person, if there are no suitable applicants for the job, then, with this system, the employer will be able to prove this and then move on to advertise and hire a worker from overseas. So, we have this very important provision here to put forward a process so that the advertisements are in place, so that Australian residents have a chance to find work. We know that the unemployment situation is incredibly serious across this country, particularly in regional areas, particularly for young people. This is quite a simple measure but a measure that goes to the heart of something that really needs to be sorted out.
We have heard many strong speeches about the need for local jobs here, and here we have this unique opportunity to address this very issue. While we come from many different perspectives in this chamber, I think one of the most common themes from all of us is the need for more jobs to be created across the whole country, for the future of the country and so that young people have a future to look forward to and people in transition can pick up work. There are so many reasons that this amendment should be supported.
I would argue that it is very important that we pass this amendment, because, as I said, currently there are no provisions to ensure that Australian resident workers can get a job before those who are on temporary work visas. We have an opportunity to fix that up in a very fair way. It does not penalise companies, because they can still move ahead and advertise for overseas workers if there are no locals to fill the jobs. We really can have a win-win here, and it is an amendment that we are keen to support. As I said, the Greens have an amendment that is very similar, and right now we have an opportunity to get something decent out of tonight.