18 September 2020
The Working Holiday Maker Inquiry interim report published yesterday by the Joint Standing Committee on Migration fails to address the rampant exploitation of temporary migrant workers undertaking regional work requirements.
The report makes 10 recommendations, of which only 1 addresses the exploitation faced by backpackers in Australia. This recommendation - to establish an advice hotline on work rights - falls far short of tackling the systemic flaws in the working holiday maker regional work program.
The Migrant Workers Centre has seen in overwhelming cases the cause behind the exploitation of temporary migrant workers lies in the prohibitive visa conditions which pushes an already vulnerable cohort of workers into precarious conditions to extend their stay.
The Committee’s proposal to further expand the regional work program to other visa categories including international students, Temporary Skill Shortage, Temporary Protection and Safe Haven Enterprise visas as a pathway to residency in Australia without tackling the systemic issues will exacerbate existing problems and create a further underclass of workers in Australia.
Quotes attributable to Matt Kunkel, Director Migrant Workers Centre
“It’s clear there’s an industry wide problem when it comes to the exploitation of migrant workers. The failure of the Committee to offer any tangible solutions is highly disappointing.
“This inquiry is a chance to implement industry wide changes to the Working Holiday Maker regional work program. The Migrant Workers Centre calls on the Joint Standing Committee on Migration to review and implement further changes that go to the heart of tackling systemic exploitation. We need reform to the piece rate wage system and to regulate labour hire across agricultural and horticultural industries.
“Why is the Morrison Government turning a blind eye to this rampant wage theft, exploitation and harassment of workers?”
For more information: Ella Shi, Migrant Workers Centre Digital and Communications Organiser, firstname.lastname@example.org or 03 9659 3516