Maritime unions in High Court win over foreign oil and gas worker visasWritten by admin , September 2nd, 2016 // Maritime
Unions representing offshore oil and gas workers say they have been vindicated by a High Court ruling yesterday in relation to foreign worker visas.
Both the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) took the challenge against the Federal Government to the court.
They claimed the then Assistant Immigration Minister, Senator Michaelia Cash, had used an “obscure legislative instrument to ignore the will of the Senate”.
That stemmed from a move in mid-2014 when the Federal Government was unable to get legislation to amend the Offshore Resources Act through the Senate.
Senator Cash announced she would introduce a new arrangement under which workers could use a Maritime Crew Visa instead of a 457 skilled labour visa.
Unlike the 457 visa, the maritime crew visa does not come under the Immigration Act, and Senator Cash said they would only be used for what she defined as highly specialised jobs and skills.
Unions argued the ministerial exemption was an abuse of process and in a unanimous decision, five judges of the High Court agreed, saying the minister exceeded her authority.
Head of the AMOU Tim Biggs said it was a win for democracy, which recognised the correct manner in which legislation was passed.
“In Australia, legislation must undergo a process,” he said.
“It must go through the Lower House and the Upper House to be passed or declined.
“If a decision doesn’t suit you, or your political party and what you want, it doesn’t give you the right to then go and turn around the next day and make a ministerial determination which is completely opposite to the wishes of the Senate.”
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton described the High Court ruling as meaning more red tape and higher costs for the offshore oil and gas industry.
He said it would reduce the competitiveness of one of Australia’s biggest export earners