The High Court have made a unanimous decision against a ministerial determination, which would have allowed offshore vessel workers to work without an Australian skilled work visa because their work was deemed not to be in the Australian migration zone.
Under the determination made by previous Assistant Immigration Minister, Michaelia Cash, offshore vessel workers carrying out highly specialised, short term work would have been able to use a Maritime Work Visa instead of a 400 or 457 visa.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) took the issue to the High Court, claiming the move would provide an incentive for companies to hire overseas workers for cheaper wages and undercut safety standards and conditions.
The High Court said the Assistant Minister had exceeded her authority. By exempting vessels and structures that were not Australian resource installations from the visa regime, the determination was held to be beyond the Minister’s power and therefore invalid.
Shortly after the ruling, current Immigration Minister Peter Dutton stated, ‘Workers on fixed offshore installations are required to hold an Australian visa, but the crews on some vessels which perform highly specialised work, usually of a short term nature, were exempted from this requirement. Many of these vessels operate in international waters and never enter an Australian port.”
So what does this mean for those working on relevant vessels and floating structures in the Australian migration zone?
Workers on vessels who undertake activities or operations to support an offshore resource activities will require either a Subclass 400 or 457 visa and can no longer work use a Maritime Crew Visa.