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Bosses hiring illegal workers could face fines of $50,000
06/08/2012 - Companies hiring illegal foreign workers could have their offices searched and face fines of up to $50,000 under new draft laws — and bosses will no longer be able to claim they simply didn't know a worker was not in possession of a valid visa.
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Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says illegal workers can be exploited and also reduce work opportunities for Australians.
"Limited criminal sanctions introduced by the Howard government in 2007 have proved ineffective, so new measures are needed," Bowen said in a statement on Friday.
The draft legislation includes new "evidence gathering powers" that would enable the immigration department to force an employer to produce documents or obtain a search warrant.
New civil penalties would mean companies could be fined up to $50,000 even if they didn't know a foreigner wasn't entitled to work in Australia because they didn't have a valid visa.
Individuals could face fines of up to $10,000.
"The decision to introduce non-fault civil penalties reflects the government's determination to address the problem of illegal work-hire practices without creating additional obligations on business," a policy commentary released alongside the draft laws states.
Statutory defences will enable employers to "establish they took reasonable steps ... to either verify that the foreign national worker is not an unlawful non-citizen or verify that the foreign national worker is not in breach of the work-related visa".
Employers will generally be protected so long as they check the status of potential workers online.
Broader terminology will ensure sham contractors and informal labour-hire outfits can also be pursued.
The federal government is seeking feedback on the draft laws before they are introduced into parliament by the end of 2012.
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