Federal Labor says it is ready to support the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement after securing "legally binding safeguards" requiring labour market testing, use of enterprise agreements as a reference point for 457 visa workers' salaries and a 90-day deadline on obtaining occupational or trades licences.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has set up a ministerial working group that she says will "consider further policy options" to curb exploitation of "vulnerable" foreign visa workers and might lead to Fair Work Act reform proposals that would be taken to the next election.
Five weeks after ordering Darwin-based Choong Enterprises to pay the largest-ever court-imposed fine for breaching 457 visa sponsorship obligations, the Federal Court has directed the company to backpay seven of the Filipino workers involved a total of more than $100,000.
The Greens will refer allegations of exploitation of foreign workers on farms and in food processing plants to a Senate inquiry into the working visa system, according to its IR spokesperson, Adam Bandt.
An illiterate Indian cook who spoke no English has won $200,000 in compensation from a Sydney restaurant that brought him to Australia and employed him in conditions a judge said were "akin to slavery" and raised questions about the integrity of the 457 visa program.
In a lucrative Christmas/New Year period for the Commonwealth's coffers, the Federal Circuit Court has handed down penalties amounting to more than $580,000 in eight separate cases brought by the Fair Work Ombudsman against companies and their directors for breaches of the Fair Work Act.
Less-stringent English testing, a fast-track approval process, retention of market rates and a two-year freeze on the minimum income floor are among the latest changes to Australia's 457 visa program announced by the Federal Government.