SUBJECT | IMMIGRATION | 5 June 2023
PETE STEFANOVIC: Dan, good morning to you. Should those teachers be able to skip compulsory agricultural labour so that they can stay in the classroom?
DAN TEHAN: Morning, Pete; wonderful to be with you again this morning. Well, what we're seeing is a direct result of the government having no plan when it comes to immigration. One of the things that we were looking at, and put in place, was an agricultural working visa which enabled these workforce shortages in agriculture to be met. Now, the government abolished that when it came into office, so now we've got workforce shortages in the agricultural sector and workforce shortages when it comes to teaching. And teachers are required now to fill those gaps. There's a better way for us to do that, and that is for the government to have a proper plan. We need to be able to make sure we can get workers into the right areas with the right skill sets, and we're not seeing that at all.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. But would you support them skipping that? Agriculture, the compulsory agriculture labour, just to stay in the classroom? That seems like a pretty simple fix.
TEHAN: Well, it does, but the whole idea of the backpackers and the changes that were made to the backpacker rules was to make sure that we were getting an even distribution of backpackers across the nation and that they were working in multiple jobs if they wanted to stay for extra years. But what we were looking at was saying, okay, well, if this system is leading to these perverse outcomes where you've got teachers having to pick potatoes, let's put an ag visa in place so we don't have these issues when it comes to picking potatoes. And let's see what we can do to address the workforce shortages in the classroom. But the government has no plan to deal with any of this, so what they're going to be doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and that doesn't benefit anyone because then we just take the workforce shortages from the classroom and add them to the workforce shortages in the agricultural sector. The government needs a plan.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Well, it might say part of its plan is this crackdown on exploitation today. So one, coercing a migrant worker to breach their visa conditions is made a criminal offence, and then two, those who break the law are barred from hiring temporary overseas workers. Do you support those changes?
TEHAN: Absolutely. We do not want to see workers being exploited, whether they're Australian workers or whether they're migrant workers. No one wants to see workers exploited. So we'll look at this legislation very closely. What I can’t understand is we had legislation introduced only last week; there just seems to be an ad hoc approach to the government: legislation here, legislation there. Once again, that just seems to be no plan. We've got 1.5 million migrants coming in over the next five years. We've got housing shortages. We've got rental shortages. So we need to see the government get a plan in place and get a plan in place quickly. And let's have a holistic approach, a holistic approach to how we're going to deal with migration in this country.
STEFANOVIC: Alright, well, this all comes on a day when a whole cohort of business groups declare war on the Albanese government. This is over IR; what are your thoughts on that advertising blitz that starts today?
TEHAN: Well, employers are very, very concerned. What we're going to see from the government is another approach, which is all about just making sure that unions are front and centre in every workplace across the nation. What we're saying is they want John Setka and John Setka lookalikes right across the nation, marching into every business across the nation and dictating how you're going to run your business. And they are very concerned, and that's why they're putting these multi-million dollar campaigns together because they want to send the government a message. This is not the way to enhance workplaces across this nation.
STEFANOVIC: Final one here on the Voice, Dan; polling out today puts the no camp ahead of the yes vote. How are you reading into that? This is Newspoll out this morning.
TEHAN: Well, Australians want to know what they're going to be voting for, and the Prime Minister keeps that detail from the Australian people week after week. And while he does that, he's treating the Australian people as mugs, and they're asking for the detail then what the Prime Minister is saying to them, we're going to put the cart before the horse. You can get all the detail after you voted. People don't like being taken for mugs, and we're seeing that now in the polling results. The Prime Minister needs to go back to the drawing board. He should be putting two questions to the Australian people, one on indigenous recognition in the Constitution and the second one on The Voice because people rightly have deep concerns about the Voice.
STEFANOVIC: Dan Tehan, thanks for your time.