THE Australian Workers' Union wants Prime Minister Scott Morrison to announce a Royal Commission to investigate emerging evidence that Chinese migrants are living like slaves on Australian farms.
An investigation published by The New Dailyhas revealed shocking testimony from a whistle-blower, known as Mr D, who said people smugglers were charging Chinese nationals up to $50,000 for illegal jobs on a Coffs Harbour fruit and vegetable farm.
The report followed a union funded investigation, published in early December, which detailed how fruit-pickers – including backpackers and bushfire victims – were paid as little as $3 an hour by labour hirers and rogue operators in the area.
AWU national secretary Dan Walton said a hidden culture of wage theft inside Australia’s horticulture industry had created slave-like conditions for some workers, who are initially lured to farms with the promise of high wages.
“The allegations of illegal behaviour in this latest story from Coffs Harbour are simply shocking and demand swift action from authorities. Mr D has bravely exposed how Chinese people are being trafficked to Coffs Harbour and forced to work like slaves, with miniscule wages and dangerous conditions” he said.
"Australia's had inquiry after inquiry highlight these issues over the last 10 years. We’ve explored every form of inquiry available – from academic studies to Federal, State, and Territory investigations. They all have the same findings, yet the industry remains riddled with systemic exploitation. And it's getting worse not better” Mr Walton said.
Mr Walton said the AWU would shortly brief Border Force officials, on confidential evidence his union has obtained from Mr D.
He said the exploitation and illegal activity identified near Coffs Harbour is just the “tip of the iceberg”.
“Migrant workers everywhere are highly vulnerable, and unions are aware that those who speak up about mistreatment are often threatened with deportation – or worse – by the unscrupulous criminals they work for.," Mr Walton said.
I believe a Royal Commission is the only option we’ve got left to stomp out the flagrant wage theft and illegal activity taking place, which has tarnished the reputation of Australian farms. This has become the story that overseas workers tell their friends and families when they return home” he said.
Mr Walton confirmed he had also written to the Prime Minister, offering to work with him and his government on delivering both a Royal Commission, and new reforms to end the underpayment, exploitation and abuse of local and foreign workers across the farm sector.
Blue Harvest Report: https://mckellinstitute.org.au/research/reports/blue-harvest/
New Daily story by Cait Kelly: https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/2020/12/07/farm-workers-exploitation/