Extend COVID-19 relief packages to temporary visa holders

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Dani Valent
Dani Valent signed this petition

There is an impending humanitarian, health and social crisis in Australia relating to the plight of workers on temporary visas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’m a Melbourne food journalist and thus in touch with many people in the hospitality industry. The restaurants, cafes and bars that make Australia the great dining destination that it is (or was!) rely on overseas workers. Employers, employees, unions and advocates such as myself are deeply concerned by the lack of government support offered to skilled workers on 457 and 482 visas, students with working rights, graduates, and others with temporary working rights.

These taxpayers are part of the fabric of our society and deserve the same support offered to all Australian residents. However, they are entitled to neither JobSeeker nor JobKeeper payments and most are suddenly unemployed due to the effective shutdown of their workplaces. Many of them are in immediate need.

This is a crisis on five fronts.

1. Humanitarian: These taxpayers subsist in unfunded limbo during this unprecedented crisis. It's unconscionable. Many of these workers live from week to week and are in immediate food and housing stress.

2. Health: A poverty-stricken underclass - created by government inaction - is at greater risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. They are less able to practice the social distancing that keeps us all safe. They are more likely to engage in risky behaviour. It makes no sense to create a whole new category of the vulnerable at this crucial juncture, especially as we head towards winter and our official "flu season."

3. Resources: Overseas workers with no access to any funds will overwhelm existing agencies which offer food relief and emergency accommodation at a time when they will already see increased demand.

4. Economic: Overseas workers drive our economy. The hospitality industry doesn't function without them. It's the same case with many other industries, including cleaning, aged care and our health system.

5. Security: Maintaining social cohesion will be a challenge in the months ahead. I fear the consequences of creating a needy and desperate cohort of temporary visa holders at a time when all Australians are under particular stress. 

The PM continually talks of Team Australia. I suggest that Team Australia should also be inclusive, caring and ensure that no worker - indeed, no person - is left behind.