To be very clear, Labor MPs oppose the government's desire. In the interests of time, I'll pick just four recommendations—ones that were highlighted by the government. The first is to streamline labour-market testing. That's government-speak for reducing or removing the requirement for businesses to test the market, to advertise jobs, before they seek to bring in a foreign worker. That's all it is—trashing labour-market testing, in effect.
The second is scrapping the requirement for employers to pay the levy to the Skilling Australians Fund. This fund is to train local workers when employers are bringing in foreign labour. If you like, it's a price signal to a business, saying: 'Okay, if you really need this worker, and you've tested the market and we haven't trained enough, you're going to pay a bit of money into the Skilling Australians Fund on the way through.' This was the government's policy. I spoke on that bill and pointed out the perversity that they'd cut $3 billion from the TAFE sector since coming to office and would then charge employers money, when they're bringing in migrants, to fund the TAFE system. It's countercyclical and it's weird, and we've said all that, but at least it's there now and it's funding TAFE. These government members of this committee are proposing to scrap that.
The third is the immediate expansion of the number of occupations on the skills shortage list: chefs; cafe and restaurant managers! There are no Australians who can do that job, apparently! Then seafarers—really, what they mean by 'seafarers' is 'Australians not prepared to work for the slave wages which have been implemented by this government' as they've trashed the Australian shipping industry and prioritised other occupations. Then there are cooks; carpenters; electricians—we didn't hear from the ETU about the inquiry, but I'm sure you will—hospitality workers and trades and manufacturing workers. Astounding!
But this is my personal favourite: while more than 40,000 Australians are stranded overseas because the Prime Minister has turned his back on them, refusing to take responsibility for quarantine and borders, the government members propose special reserved seats on flights and places in quarantine for skilled migrants. That's astounding! You can see it now, can't you? Business class up the front of the plane for the migrants that business want to bring in, and cattle class down the back for the few stranded Australians who manage to get on the plane. Australians, again, are at the back of the queue.
You couldn't make this stuff up. It might have made sense if they'd tabled it on 1 April. Then at least I could see a line of twisted logic. But government members seriously think this is good. This is in the context of a recession and on the very day that the government's priority in this parliament is to get a bill through the Senate making it easier to cut people's wages—a double whammy.
I heard what the chair said, and I count him as a friend and I respect him greatly. But this is rushed. It is unbalanced. Shame on them!
I'll make three final points. This is not the government flying a kite. Be very clear: this is what the minister wants. The member for Berowra, the chair of the committee, is a senior backbencher. He's an intelligent man. He doesn't just freelance—he's not the member for Dawson, like on the committee report that I just spoke on. He's on his way to the ministry; frankly, he should be there, when you see some of the muppets who are there. He knows what he's doing. I shouldn't give you the kiss of death with that! The minister built into the terms of reference a requirement for the committee to report on these matters by March—because this is what they want to do in the budget. QED; join the dots.
Next myth: this is not about regional agriculture and farm workers, as the government members may pretend. There's a crisis there. Of course there is. We've supported action on that. We've done a report into that. This is not about that. You can still employ working holiday-makers, and there's the Pacific seasonal worker program and other seasonal workers programs.
As I said, I'm not anti-migration—far from it. I used to run skilled and business migration programs in the Victorian government. I'm actually a supporter of skilled migration. But the hypocrisy of the government to say, 'We were anti-migration,' when you presided government! The government has presided over a massive cut to permanent migration while temporary migration blows out. What a nonsense! Then they come and say, 'Maybe we should have more pathways to permanency for migrants?' Of course you should. It's like they haven't been in government for the last eight years.
The final point I'd make is this comes in the context of a much broader mess of migration that this government has made: Peter Dutton's black hole of a department—partner visas blowing out; 100,00 Australians desperate to be reunited with their family, their loved ones; parents who've never met their children, like in my electorate where 12 months on they've never met their child; students; businesses; delays, blowouts; fees rising; and the mess they've made in the training system. If nothing else, this is an admission of abject failure of this government. Apprentices have been slashed in their eight years of government and $3 billion has been cut from the TAFE and training system.
And so their answer is: panic, panic, panic, waive the Skills Fund, scrap labour market testing and reserve special seats on planes and places in quarantine for foreign workers and skilled migrants to come in now, while the Prime Minister fails to take responsibility and do his job on quarantine, as he should under the Australian Constitution.
Let's be very clear for the government: just like your industrial relations legislation and the wage cut bills, you're not going to sue for peace on this. You can't get out of this. We know this came from the minister. It doesn't matter if you crab walk away, this is your agenda and this is what you want to see happen in this country as we try to recover from a recession.