Maritime Unions win legal battle against Abbott Government

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Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net user: Salvatore Vuono

The Federal Court has knocked back the Abbott Government’s ongoing efforts to undermine Australian jobs in the offshore oil and gas sector, rejecting its underhand means of deploying visas for foreign workers.

Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net user: Salvatore Vuono
Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
user: Salvatore Vuono

The full bench of the Federal Court ruled on Thursday that the decision by Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash to ease employment procedures for cheap foreign workers to work on drilling rigs and oil and gas platforms was “not authorised or … invalid”.

“The Parliament’s intention was to confer upon the Minister a power to except or exempt particular activities or operations carried out under the Offshore Petroleum Act or Offshore Minerals Act, not to reverse the Parliament’s desire and intention to bring within the [Migration] Act non-citizens who are engaged in operations and activities under the Offshore Petroleum Actor the Offshore Minerals Act,” the judgment read.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) – who had appealed against the Ministerial Determination introduced on 17 July 2014 – welcomed the Court’s decision saying it would provide stability and restore faith in the country’s employment laws.

“The Federal Court has today restored faith and most importantly stability in the employment laws protecting ordinary Australians. This entire episode merely adds to the appearance to our international markets of a chaotic, dysfunctional Government in what is an essential and highly efficient and productive Australian workforce and industry,” said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin.

“The MUA and AMOU are currently working on a draft regulation to fix this problem and we urge the Abbott Government to sit down with relevant parties to find a solution that is acceptable to unions, companies and the Senate.”

The MUA and AMOU are strong supporters of the Senate Inquiry into temporary work visa schemes such as 457s which was passed by the upper house earlier this week.

AMOU President Wayne Moore said this was merely another case of the Abbott Government’s ideological crusade to bust unions and bring in foreign workers to undermine Australian jobs in the offshore oil and gas sector.

“The Senate made the right decision in the middle of last year to protect Australian jobs by blocking the Abbott Government’s attempts to flood the offshore oil and gas sector with cheap foreign labour,” Mr Moore said.

“The Australian people know that opening the back door to cheap foreign labour isn’t the answer. We need to maintain our maritime skills base and ensure the viability of Australian jobs in the offshore sector. The only reason the Abbott Government won’t put the ORA Appeal Act to the Senate is because they don’t think they can get it through.”