Australian employers that are found to exploit migrant workers will face penalties and be barred from taking on more workers on temporary visas as part of new reforms aimed at cracking down on migrant worker exploitation.

In an announcement on June 4, the government said, “Following eight months of consultation, the Albanese Government is today announcing a package of legislative powers, enforcement tools, additional funding and a new approach to help people in exploitative workplaces speak up.”

Andrew Giles, minister for immigration, citizenship and multicultural affairs, will introduce legislation into Parliament in the coming weeks that will penalize unscrupulous employers.

The new measures will make it a criminal offense to coerce someone into breaching their visa condition. It also will introduce prohibition notices to stop employers that have exploited migrant workers from further hiring people on temporary visas.

The landmark measures will also increase penalties and new compliance tools and repeal section 235 of the Migration Act, which actively undermines the reporting of exploitative behavior. Fines on employers exploiting workers will increase from a maximum of AUS $165,000 (US$109,180) to AUS $495,000 (US$327,541).

The government will also provide AUS $50 million (US$33.1 million) in funding to resource the Australian Border Force for this and other enforcement and compliance activities.

Giles cited data from Grattan Institute that showed one in six recent migrants to Australia is paid less than the minimum wage.

“We are in consultation on systemic changes to our migration system which will ensure it works in the interests of Australian workers and businesses, and we are also doing the work necessary to ensure that no one who comes to this country is exploited or abused,” said Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil.

“When migrant workers are being underpaid, it hurts all of us, driving wages and conditions down for everyone,” Giles said. “These reforms will help workers speak up and target those employers who do the wrong thing.”