Australia: Maritime unions win offshore visa case

Australia Maritime unions win offshore visa case

Australian maritime workers’ unions have won a legal battle against the determination made by Ministry for Immigration and Border Protection in 2015 negating certain visa requirements for non-citizens engaged in the offshore resources industry.

The unions saw the minister’s move as an attack on local workforce, fearing that immigrant workers would take their jobs in the offshore oil and gas industry.

But first some background. Since 1982, provisions of the Australian migration act have provided to the effect that the migration zone, and therefore the requirement for a non-citizen to hold a visa, extends to non-citizens working on “Australian resources installations”.

In 2013, the Act was amended to extend Australia’s migration zone to non-citizens participating in or supporting an “offshore resources activity” and to impose specified visa requirements in respect of those persons.

In 2015, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection made a determination excepting from that definition all operations and activities to the extent that they use any vessel or structure that is not an Australian resources installation.

The purported effect of the determination was thus to negate the need for a visa to non-Australian citizens engaged in operations and activities to the extent that they use any vessel or structure that is not an Australian resources installation.

However, in a ruling brought last Wednesday, the Australian High Court unanimously held that the broad-ranging exception contemplated by the determination exceeded the limited terms of the power conferred on the Minister, and this ruled the determination invalid and of no effect.

Speaking outside the High Court in Canberra, Deputy National Secretary of Maritime Union of Australia Will Tracey said: “Today is a fantastic day that again has reinforced and confirmed our right to work in our industry.” 

Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia said: “Unions watched the matter very closely because it was a blatant attack on Australians’ rights to work in their own country. The Turnbull Government’s use of a cynical and flawed legislative process undermines certainty and investment confidence in Australia’s essential hydrocarbon industry.”

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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