Dodgy bosses who exploit migrant farm workers will face new criminal offences and fines under a proposed crackdown on misconduct.
The Morrison government has released draft legislation for consultation ahead of a dedicated agriculture visa being due to be introduced later in the year.
Using people’s immigration status to coerce workers will be outlawed along with pressuring people to accept employment conditions that breach visa conditions.
The draft bill also bans employers who break the law from employing new migrant workers for a specified period.
Civil penalties for breaches of migration laws will be increased.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the government wanted to ensure Australia maintained a strong reputation as a destination for working holiday makers, students and skilled migrants.
“We know the majority of Australian businesses and employers do the right thing but there are still a small number of unscrupulous employers who find ways to exploit migrants,” he said on Monday.
Employers, labour hire companies and other referral agencies will be required to use an online verification system to ensure appropriate checks of visa conditions and immigration status.
The Australian Border Force will be handed new compliance tools to work with employers and labour hire companies employing migrant workers.
The government has also changed regulations to discourage backpackers from working for dodgy employers convicted of safety and welfare breaches.
Working for those businesses will not count towards receiving a second or third working holidaymaker visa.
The exclusion would only apply to work undertaken after the business is listed.
The Department of Home Affairs will also implement enhanced communication channels to allow visa holders to easily check employers’ status.
A specified business will be provided a right of reply, before being listed.
Consultation on the legislation’s exposure draft will be open until August 16.