ANDREW-HOBBSBy Andrew Hobbs, Group Editor

IN THE end, it was as if nothing had happened.

The Legislative Instrument issued by Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Michaelia Cash this month, ostensibly requires foreign workers involved in an offshore resources activity to hold a 457 visa, as was the situation under previous Labor governments.

But the changes will only apply to those working on a resources installation permanently fixed to the Australian sea bed – not for workers on board a pipelay vessel or a mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU).

These workers will not be considered to be within Australia’s migration zone and as such will not require a visa.

It also means that the companies employing these workers will not need to observe Australia’s Fair Work Act in relation to them – a matter decided in the Federal Court last year in a case brought by the Fair Work Ombudsman against Hong Kong-based company Pocomwell and three others.

In summary of what was a detailed decision, the Court found that the MODUs on which the four painters who made the initial complaint worked, were neither fixed platforms, nor a majority Australian crewed ship.

In its earlier decision, Allseas Construction vs the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, the Federal Court found workers on a pipelay vessel had not entered Australia’s Migration Zone, even if touching infrastructure that was fixed to the sea floor.

Labor’s Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Act 2013 would have meant any person who participated in, or supported an offshore resources activity, was in Australia’s migration zone.

The Coalition Government had attempted to repeal the legislation in March, but failed to get the legislation through the Senate of the day.

It then proposed a new bill, which would have seen offshore resources workers issued with Maritime Crew Visas – the same ones issued to the crew of visiting ships.

This was the proposal which Labor, the Greens and the Palmer United Party voted together to disallow, with Shadow Immigration Minister Richard Marles saying in a statement that he felt the visa lacked “the appropriate safeguards to protect workers from being exploited.”

The resulting decision means that such foreign workers will require no visa at all. One wonders whether any in Canberra are satisfied with that outcome.