Lambert said the Migration Amendment (Reform of Employer Sanctions) Bill 2012 puts the onus on the employer to vouch for the legality of their workers.
She said this means that if the Bill becomes law employers right across the country will now have to seek proof of citizenship from everyone on their books.
Lambert described the Bill as ‘a national inconvenience’.
‘Cracking down on illegal workers is fair enough, but do we want every single worker in the country inconvenienced to this degree to achieve that end?’ she asked.
‘We are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut! The Senate really needs to have a good look at this.’
The Migration Amendment (Reform of Employer Sanctions) Bill 2012 (the Bill) amends the Migration Act 1958 (the Act) to implement the government’s response to the independent report entitled Report of the 2010 Review of the Migration Amendment (Employer Sanctions) Act 2007 (the Howells Review) conducted by independent legal expert Stephen Howells.
The Howells Review considered the effectiveness of the current employer sanctions framework, including criminal sanctions and an administrative warning notice scheme that was introduced in 2007 as a result of a Howard Government commissioned review, the Review of Illegal Work in Australia (RIWA) in 1999. Howells found that the employer sanctions framework was wholly ineffective as a deterrent against the number of employers and labour intermediaries who persist in allowing or referring non-citizens to work without the required permission.
The government announced on 12 December 2011 that it would legislate to reform the employer sanctions regime.
Lambert said although the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) shares the government’s resolve that employers who knowingly and wilfully employ illegal workers should be dealt with by the law, it believes the current Bill overreaches.
‘This Bill imposes penalties on employers who act in good faith and are not aware that an employee or job seeker is not legally allowed to work,’ she said.
‘The Bill effectively means that all employers will have to validate the citizenship or sight the original or certified copy of a birth certificate or passport of every worker who they employ, including existing employees.’
‘In reality, more than 99% of the 13 million plus workers in Australia are citizens or are entitled to work, so this Bill results in over 12.9 million workers being asked to provide proof of their right to work for the sake of less than 100,000.’
ACCI believes that the government’s immigration compliance model that has education of employers as its primary tool and escalates to criminal sanction for those who willingly flout the law is reasonable.
Lambert urged the Senate to explore avenues to amend the Bill to target the problem rather than inconveniencing everyone because of the actions of a very small minority.