Government moves to restore work rights for offshore oil and gas workers

30 Mar 15

AUSTRALIA

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Michaelia Cash issued a determination Friday to restore work rights to hundreds of non-Australian citizens working in the country’s offshore oil and gas industry.

What does the change mean? Cash’s move came a day after a Federal Court invalidated a previous attempt to exempt certain non-Australian workers from a law that effectively required them to obtain permanent visas in order to work on oil and gas rigs.

  • Implementation timeframe: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: The change affects a number of temporary Australian visas that allow holders to undertake specific work activities in Australia, including the Temporary Work (Skilled) subclass 457 visa and the Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity) subclass 400 visa.
  • Who is affected: Companies employing non-Australian citizens in the offshore oil and gas industry.
  • Business impact: The business stakes are high. Following the Federal Court’s decision Thursday, the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) said the AU $200 billion offshore oil and gas industry has been “thrown into uncertainty” and that the ruling jeopardised jobs for both foreign nationals and Australians working with them. Cash’s determination is intended to protect the work rights of those affected by the ruling.

Background: A three-judge Federal Court panel issued a ruling Thursday invalidating a determination Cash issued in 2014 to “except” offshore oil and gas workers from visa requirements imposed by the Labor government before the current government gained control. The Court said Cash had exceeded her authority by reversing “Parliament’s desire and intention” to require non-citizens to obtain permanent visas in order to work on offshore oil and gas rigs. Friday’s determination is designed to restore work rights to non-Australians whose status was thrown into uncertainty following the ruling. The determination will have the effect of allowing non-Australian citizens to lawfully work on offshore rigs that are fixed to the seabed.

BAL Analysis: The Court’s ruling left the status of the workers and offshore oil and gas industry in flux. The new determination, however, may restore stability. BAL will continue following the situation and update clients accordingly.

This alert has been provided by BAL Australia. For additional information, please contact australia@balglobal.com.

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