Australian maritime unions are considering an appeal to the full Federal Court in the wake of yesterday’s ruling of Justice Buchanan in favour of the Abbott Government’s decision covering workers in the offshore oil and gas sector.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) took the Abbott Government to court for using a “legislative instrument to re-open a loophole to allow cheap foreign labour in the offshore.”
In a 28-page judgment handed down yesterday, Justice Buchanan said the argument put by the unions “is a powerful one. At one level it seems almost instinctively correct.”
However, he ruled in the Government’s favour as a matter of law.
The Abbott Government has taken three significant steps in this respect:
- Introduced a Bill to repeal the Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Act 2013 which was passed by the Parliament in 2013 to address a flaw in Australia’s migration law following a Federal Court judgment in the Allseas case that found that certain groups of workers were not within the migration zone and did not require visas to work in Australia;
- Introduced a Regulation under that Act that specified an inappropriate visa class as a work visa to conform with the Act (the Maritime Crew Visa, which is a transit visa for visiting international seafarers, not a work visa); and
- When the Senate disallowed the regulation specifying that visa, introduced a Determination that effectively makes the Act null and void, eliminating the need for visas entirely for offshore vessels not fixed to the Australian seabed, in complete disregard to the wishes of the Parliament.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the joint maritime unions would not rest until the job security of Australians working in Australian resources projects is protected.
“The majority of Australian Senators voted to disallow the Abbott Government’s attempts to open the floodgates to foreign workers in the offshore oil and gas sector,” Mr Crumlin said.
“The joint unions believe Australian maritime workers should have the right to work in their own country and the ideological warriors in the Abbott Government and Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) are seeking to take out an entire Australian industry.
“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 ACTU Executive in July passed a resolution expressing “its deep concern at the actions of the Abbott Government that are designed to undermine the rights and opportunities of Australians to access employment in the Australian offshore oil and gas industry.”
A separate action by the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) opposing the Government’s actions had been adjourned pending yesterday’s decision.