Worker to miss out on $40,000 in JM Kelly entitlements
GARY McMahon, you would think, is a fair dinkum Aussie bloke.
He fills up at the servo, calls his friends 'mate' and is happiest in a t-shirt and thongs, but when it comes to collecting 15 years worth of entitlements after JM Kelly's collapse, our mate Gazza isn't Aussie enough.
Gary was employed at Kawana Kitchens, a JM Kelly Group company, for 15 years - seven as a workshop foreman and seven years training and assessing apprentices.
He and his workmates were working on the refurbishment of Bowen Hospital when they heard a couple of "chippies" saying JM Kelly had gone under, so they called the boss.
He told them it wasn't looking good and to pack up and head home.
"Lucky we had some travel money on us because when we stopped into the servo to fuel up, the fuel card had been cancelled," Gary said.
"That was it, that was our notice.
"We went straight home and that was that."
A few days later Gary received a letter from the administrators who advised him he was owed $39,000 in entitlements and directed him to the Federal Government's Fair Entitlements Guarantee.
FEG provides financial assistance to cover unpaid entitlements to eligible employees who lose their job due to liquidation or bankruptcy of their employer.
But it all went pear-shaped when FEG asked for ID, either an Australian passport or Australian citizenship papers.
Gary came to Australia from Scotland in 1981 as a 12-year-old, on his parents' passport.
He went to high school in Australia, worked and paid taxes for most of his adult life in Australia, and even spent a couple of short periods on Newstart allowance at different stages in his life.
He never had a problem lodging tax returns as a permanent resident, but now he finds there is no electronic record of his permanent residency.
After six months, his Aussie larrikin sense of humour is being sorely tested.
He can't understand, if he isn't a permanent resident or citizen, then on what basis has he been allowed to live, work, pay tax and claim benefits here?
"I actually went to the police station last week and handed myself in as an illegal immigrant," he said.
"So they rang up Immigration and they said 'you're not an illegal immigrant, you're actually a resident'.
"I said 'well I'm asking you why I have to prove I'm a permanent resident if you're telling me I am?'"
The end result of the conversation was that Gary is an Australian resident if he can prove it was him who came to Australia on that day with his parents.
Even though the original immigration papers received in Scotland have been forwarded to the department, without a British birth certificate or a passport he can't prove it.
"They've even gone through the national archives to check passenger arrivals, they've got all that but they're still saying I need my passport and birth certificate," he said.
Gary has been in Australia for 38 years. He's a fully qualified cabinet maker, has an Australian driver's license, Medicare card, banks accounts, a home loan, received Centrelink benefits and paid tax.
"If I can't prove to those people who I am, how am I going to prove it to the British Government?" he said.
In the meantime, he has $9 to his name and is about to lose the home he shares with his partner of 17 years and her two grandchildren.
"I told them I don't have any money to get a passport or a birth certificate and they suggested I go to a local charity to help me," he said.
"I understand they have to be careful with fraud, but if I wasn't fair dinkum I wouldn't have handed myself in to the police.
"If that wasn't a cry for help I don't know what it was."
The Department of Immigration does not comment on individual cases but said that where possible they work with clients to resolve their immigration status.
"The visa status of long-term residents will depend on their individual circumstances," a spokesman said.