Senate Inquiries

Current Senate Inquiries
457 Visa System
On 24th March 2015, the senate voted 37 to 31 in favour of initiating an inquiry into Australia’s working visa system.
This inquiry was then set up to investigate the use of temporary working visas and the reported abuse and exploitation of foreign workers. The CFMEU along with a number of other industry groups put in submissions to the inquiry outlining the issues that are evident with the current system including; lax regulation and monitoring, insufficient requirements for employers to look for local job seekers first, exploitation of overseas workers, and lack of controls over migration agents.
The CFMEU is asking;

•  Employers must advertise locally and prove they have made a genuine effort to find Australian workers

•  More resources need to be put into training and apprenticeships

•  The Government needs to increase penalties against companies and migration agents that abuse the system

•  The CFMEU supports appropriate skilled migration through permanent migration schemes which do not bind workers to individual employers.

The submissions have now closed and reporting is due on the 19th August.
Read the CFMEU submission here

Update on 457 Visa System (as at 23.10.15)

The full reporting date has been extended to 11 February 2016.  The committee has tabled an interim report which looks at the evidence presented on a range of temporary visa programs including the student, WHM, and 457 visa programs. Issues raised included impacts on the Australian labour market; impacts on training and skills development in Australia; exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers; non-compliance by employers with workplace laws; and gaps in the regulatory system. There are no recommendations as of yet. The CFMEU gave evidence at the Sydney hearing in July.


Insolvencies in the Construction Industry
On 4 December 2014 the Senate referred an inquiry into insolvency in the Australian construction industry to the Senate Economics References Committee for inquiry and report by 11 November 2015.
Submissions closed on 17 April 2015.
The CFMEU Nationally made a submission on the basis that:

•  Unsecured creditors, such as smaller subcontractors (and their employees), usually bear the brunt of corporate insolvencies. In 2013-14, the chance of an unsecured creditor receiving nothing from an insolvent company in the industry was almost 92%.

•  Corporate insolvency in the Australian construction industry is not simply a matter of poor business practices. It is a major area of unlawful and unethical behaviour and has been for many years.

•  One in five insolvencies happen within the construction industry in Australia.

Union pushes for changes in legislation

♦  Stronger sanctions

→  ASIC and the ASIO to be better resourced to deal with this

♦  The MBA is saying that there is no problem, it is all working fine. The problem is the CFMEU.

The CFMEU says that existing laws and regulatory arrangements have failed to reverse a situation which has prevailed for far too long.

And a strong, nationally coordinated response from the Government is urgently needed.

Read the CFMEU Submission here


Update on Insolvencies in the Construction Industry (as at 23.10.15)

There are two more public hearings to go – Perth on the 26th Oct at which C&G will be addressing the committee regarding the lack of level playing field regarding costs, and many companies avoiding super, compo and payroll tax payments due to lack of government oversight, leading to undercutting, insolvencies and phoenixing. Another hearing will be held in Canberra on 4th November and the report is due by 3 December 2015.

The inquiry was referred to the committee by the Legislative Assembly on 27 March 2015.
The FIFO inquiry will Inquire into and report on fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) and other long distance commuting work practices in regional Queensland.
While they are part of the resources industry that is here to stay, the CFMEU is deeply concerned about

•  Lack of standards and personal freedoms in accommodation camps.

•  Punishing rosters leading to fatigue, family breakdown and mental illness

•  Decline of population, economic activity and social amenity in regional communities

•  Lack of investment in training

•  Discrimination against local workers in regional areas

•  Impacts of the rapid growth of long-distance commuting and compulsory FIFO, including:

♦  140 submissions from CFMEU.

•  Recommendations – WA C&G have a petition to get the WA Gov to implement the recommendations as soon as possible.
The CFMEU is making a number of recommendations to this inquiry that would improve circumstances for workers and regional communities. Most pressingly, we urge the Queensland Government to put an end to compulsory 100% FIFO operations in the state.
The inquiry is due to report on 30th September 2015.
Non Conforming Building Products
On 23 June 2015, the Senate referred an inquiry into non-conforming building products to the Senate Economics References Committee for inquiry, with particular reference to:

•  The economic impact of non-conforming building products on the Australian building and construction industry;

•  The impact of non-conforming building products on:

♦  Industry supply chains, including importers, manufacturers and fabricators,

•  Workplace safety and any associated risks,

•  Costs passed on to customers, including any insurance and compliance costs; and

•  The overall quality of Australian buildings

The CFMEU is calling for import restrictions on faulty building products in the wake of a fire which spread through 13 storeys of a Melbourne apartment building.
In this particular case the external cladding did not comply with the degree necessary to avoid the spread of fire as required by the Building Code of Australia.
CFMEU strategy

•  Imported building products' impact on safety and jobs.

•  Submission is currently underway.

•  Building products and how they relate to the China FTA.

•  A mandatory system for compliance for products coming into Australia.

The CFMEU will be entering a submission before the submission deadline of the 3rd August 2015.

Proposed China-Australia Free Trade Agreement
On 24 March 2015, the Senate referred matters relating to the proposed China-Australia Free Trade Agreement to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee for inquiry and report.
The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement was tabled in Parliament on 17 June 2015 and was referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties for inquiry and report.
The closing date for submissions is 28 August 2015.
The proposed China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, with particular reference to the impact of the agreement on Australia’s:

•  Economy and trade;

•  Domestic labour market testing obligations and laws regarding wages, conditions and entitlements of Australian workers and temporary work visa holders;

•  Investment; and

•  Social, cultural and environmental policies.

That, in conducting the inquiry, the committee shall review the agreement to ensure it is in Australia’s national interest, and have regard to the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on the proposed agreement.
The CFMEU will be making a submission before the closing date
Corporate Tax Avoidance
On 2 October 2014 the Senate referred an inquiry into corporate tax avoidance to the Senate Economics References Committee for inquiry and report by the first sitting day in June 2015. On 15 June 2015, the Senate granted an extension to the committee to report by 13 August 2015.
Submissions closed on 2 February 2015.
Tax avoidance and aggressive minimisation by corporations registered in Australia and multinational corporations operating in Australia, with specific reference to:

•  The adequacy of Australia’s current laws;

•  Any need for greater transparency to deter tax avoidance and provide assurance that all companies are complying fully with Australia’s tax laws;

•  The broader economic impacts of this behaviour, beyond the direct effect on government revenue;

•  The opportunities to collaborate internationally and/or act unilaterally to address the problem;

•  The performance and capability of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to investigate and launch litigation, in the wake of drastic budget cuts to staffing numbers;

•  The role and performance of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in working with corporations and supporting the ATO to protect public revenue;

•  Any relevant recommendations or issues arising from the Government’s White Paper process on the ‘Reform of Australia’s Tax System’; and

•  Any other related matters.