Visa deal for Chinese could show globalisation 'dark side'

THE Salvation Army has raised fresh concerns about the protections for up to 5000 Chinese working holidaymakers who will come to Australia under the recently announced free trade agreement between the countries.

A Senate inquiry is examining the visa system, particularly the 457 visa for skilled migrants and the 417 visa for temporary working holidaymakers.

Under the China free trade agreement signed last month, 5000 Chinese workers will be added to the more than 290,000 working holidaymakers in Australia each year.

The Abbott government recently completed raids on businesses around the country that were hiring 417 visa workers, and the Fair Work Ombudsman's last annual report noted those on the visa were more vulnerable to exploitation than other temporary migrants.

The Salvation Army's Heather Moore said she was concerned about the impact the extra 5000 workers would have on "an already-strained temporary work program".

Ms Moore said the program was being reviewed and already accounted for about a third of all complaints to the Ombudsman.

She said workers faced disincentives to come forward to report abuse and unfair or unsafe work practices.

"I think we really need to step back from some of the volatile arguments and get some facts down - we need to know what's happening to these people and how prevalent it is," she said.

The Salvos submission to the inquiry acknowledged the need for the nation to remain competitive, but urged that trade be bal-anced with "an honest acknowledgment of the darker side of globalisation".

"What we see is that a lot of workers come in and they're working long hours - their entire life is just work," Ms Moore said.

"So we've recommended they have someone outside of work or the government they can talk to and can educate them.

"They need to have real relationships with people in the communities they're working in, and local communities can play a role."

The Senate inquiry will have a series of hearings and will report next month.

The Salvation Army urged visa holders exper-iencing exploitation to phone 02 9211 5794.

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