Offshore workers in limbo after Senate action

By , University of Canberra

The Senate has disallowed an Abbott government regulation relating to the visas required for foreigners employed on offshore oil and gas projects, leaving many workers in limbo.

Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash said tonight the practical effect was to put everyone employed in the industry who was not a citizen or a permanent resident in breach of their visa conditions if they continued to work.

The disallowance, moved by the Greens, was supported by Labor, Palmer United Party senators, the Motoring Enthusiast Party’s Ricky Muir and the DLP’s John Madigan.

The government said it was seeking advice on its next step.

The regulation, introduced last month, made three types of visa arrangements available to offshore workers, one of which enabled maritime crews to be employed outside the conditions of the Australia’s Fair Work legislation.

The regulation reversed the Labor government legislation to ensure that projects such as Gorgon off the West Australian coast were covered by the provisions of the Fair Work legislation.

Cash accused Labor of capitulating to the demands of the “most militant union in Australia”, the Maritime Union of Australia.

The move had plunged our domestic oil and gas industry “into an avoidable state of uncertainty”, she said. Labor had placed “thousands of Australian jobs at risk”.

But Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt said: “The Greens have stood up to the Abbott government and successfully protected local jobs, wages and conditions for people working in the offshore resources sector”.

He said the government’s regulation had let companies in the offshore oil and gas industries flout the Fair Work Act and pay workers less than Australian minimum wages and conditions.

“People on offshore oil and gas platforms and on the mainland got Australian minimum wages and conditions, but the Abbott government said that those laying pipes out to the platforms weren’t entitled to the same protection.”

Bandt said the government should now issue a new regulation that respected local wages and conditions.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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