Planned mosque protests a threat to social cohesion

14 August 2015

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) and its member organisations across Australia stand strongly in condemnation of planned mosque protests in October.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) and its member organisations across Australia stand strongly in condemnation of planned mosque protests in October.

At FECCA, we are very concerned over the progressively hostile attitudes toward Muslim Australians and other minority groups.

“There can be no tolerance for racism and bigotry.  We need to call it what it is, instead of making excuses for racist behaviours under the guise of ‘patriotism,’” FECCA Acting Chair, Eugenia Grammatikakis said.

FECCA is troubled by the rise in rallies and racist attacks, which promote feelings of exclusion and fear in the community.  The rhetoric maintained by Reclaim Australia and other fringe groups is one completely at odds with Australian values.

Ms Grammatikakis said, “The encouragement of violent protests is alarming and is a threat to the personal security and safety of our culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse communities.  These racist groups should be condemned by all in the Australian community as a threat to social cohesion and community harmony.”

In these times of heightened societal angst, FECCA would like to stress the importance of respect, tolerance and social inclusion to build an accepting, cohesive and unified Australia.

Media Comments: FECCA Office – (02) 6282 5755, media@fecca.org.au.

Concerns raised about proposed changes to citizenship law

5 August 2015

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) appeared before the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security to discuss the Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill. We highlighted the concerns raised by the community at consultations held by our State and Territory members, including that many feel the Bill would create two classes of citizens.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) appeared before the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security to discuss the Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill.  We highlighted the concerns raised by the community at consultations held by our State and Territory members, including that many feel the Bill would create two classes of citizens.

FECCA Acting Chair Eugenia Grammatikakis said, “Citizenship is the cornerstone of belonging and acceptance in society, and therefore is highly valued by the communities we represent.  Our concern is that this Bill disproportionately affects migrants and their children.  It has the potential to affect community social cohesion by creating two classes of citizens.”

FECCA strongly supports the judicial system, the rule of law, and the right to a fair trial.  “We highlight the insufficiency of the Bill to provide important safeguards to protect fundamental rights, including the right to a trial and access to the rules of natural justice,” said Ms Grammatikakis.

We are also troubled by the potential effect of the Bill on children.  This includes those who engage in conduct, which may lead to the cessation of their own citizenship, or those who may have their citizenship revoked because of the actions of their parents.  “As a vulnerable group, the rights of the child are fundamental under international law.  We ask for appropriate safeguards and mechanisms to be put in place to protect children from the automatic renunciation or cessation of citizenship,” said Ms Grammatikakis.

We maintain that this bill not be passed in its current form and instead is re-drafted and introduced for public consideration.

Media Comments: FECCA Office – (02) 6282 5755, media@fecca.org.au.

FECCA’s response to the Productivity Commission’s draft report on Australia’s Workplace Relations Framework

4 August 2015

The Productivity Commission have released their draft report today on Australia’s Workplace Relations Framework. FECCA made a submission to the inquiry, highlighting a number of issues involving employment conditions and the workplace relations framework as it relates to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australians and migrant workers. We are pleased that the draft report includes our commentary on the vulnerability of CALD workers.

The Productivity Commission have released their draft report today on Australia’s Workplace Relations Framework.  FECCA made a submission to the inquiry, highlighting a number of issues involving employment conditions and the workplace relations framework as it relates to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australians and migrant workers. We are pleased that the draft report includes our commentary on the vulnerability of CALD workers.

The Commission have made two recommendations in relation to migrant workers:

  1. The Fair Work Ombudsman should be given additional resources for investigation and audits of employers suspected of underpaying migrant workers (including those in breach of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth))
  2. The Migration Act should be amended so that employers can be fined by at least the value of any unpaid wages and conditions to migrants working in breach of the Migration Act, in addition to the existing penalties under the Act.

While it is reasonable for employers who exploit migrant workers to be penalised for doing so, more needs to be done to support workers who find themselves in this position. Migrant workers are vulnerable to exploitation as they may have an absence of support networks and a lack of understanding about the protections that exist in the Australian workplace relations system.  Migrant workers may be forced into breaching their visa obligations by an unscrupulous employer and may not do this willingly or knowingly.

The Commission’s recommendations discourage reporting by workers of breaches of their employment and visa conditions.  With compliance being the key focus, little is proposed to support vulnerable migrant workers in situations of exploitation.  The recommendations adopt a punitive approach towards already exploited workers, whereby the unpaid wages are paid by the employer to the government.  The draft report provides no mechanism for the collected money to be directed toward supporting vulnerable migrant workers, either by restoring the payment that they are owed or implementing programs to empower them.

The draft report also examines other issues relevant to FECCA’s constituency, including the minimum wage, penalty rates and apprenticeships and traineeships.  FECCA will look closely at the draft report and make a further submission to the Commission by 18 September.

Media Comments: FECCA Office – (02) 6282 5755, media@fecca.org.au.