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Commentary: Visa conditions of migrant workers in Australia's agriculture industry make them vulnerable to exploitation

"Sexual assault, lost fingers: exploitation in an industry rotten to the core", 11 October 2020


In 2010, I came to Australia from Taiwan as a working holidaymaker and began work in an apple-packing shed in Shepparton. [...] I was paid about $13 per hour — below the legal minimum. From that $13 per hour, the labour hire provider took 13 per cent in fees and charges that I later discovered were unlawful. [...]

[...] The three sexual assaults I personally took to the police on behalf of friends have still never been acted upon [...].

Workers are still denied medical care when they are injured [...]. A man I know lost three fingers in a meat grinder [....]

[...] [T]he Refugee Council of Australia put forward a proposal to grant permanent visas to people seeking asylum in exchange for a year picking fruit. Clearly, Australia is prepared to consider any solution to the agricultural labour shortage except a market one – improving conditions and pay.


But the industry is rotten at its core. Government and industry have colluded to design visa conditions that prevent migrant workers from establishing links in Australia – requiring us to move every six months.

Unfair dismissal provisions, including those that protect whistle-blowers, apply only after a probationary period of six months which we are specifically prohibited from completing [...]. When we return home, we abandon all hope of recovering unpaid wages because the Fair Entitlements Guarantee that protects Australian workers does not extend to us.


Australians can stand up against those who would distort markets and wear down rights for their own profit – and call out the diversionary tactics they use. This is your country, but we also have a stake in what you choose to do.