SEASONAL WORKER PROGRAMME
737. Hon CHARLES SMITH to the Minister for Regional Development:
I refer to the recent announcement
that workers from East Timor are being imported to work in the fruit picking
industry in WA. I also refer to the 2017 National Temporary Migrant Work Survey
that found large-scale wage theft was prevalent in fruit picking and farm work.
(1) Does the
government concede—bearing in mind the report I have mentioned—that
importing these foreign workers is completely at odds with the government's
inquiry into wage theft?
(2) What safeguards is the
government putting in place to protect these workers from wage theft?
(3) Does the
government concede that the best way to actually deal with so-called labour
shortages is to lift wages and encourage workers to shift to the industry,
which is failing to attract workers, rather than to import cheap foreign
ALANNAH MacTIERNAN replied:
I thank the member for the question.
(1)–(2) There are legitimate concerns about the
exploitation of foreign workers in some farm sectors. However, the project I announced
will facilitate employment through the commonwealth's Seasonal Worker
Programme. There are stringent requirements for the protection of
employees on all approved employers under this program.
Before becoming an approved employer
under the Seasonal Worker Programme, the business must meet, amongst others
things, the following criteria: be committed to employing Australian job
seekers first; have good workplace relations and immigration practices; and
have an understanding of an approved employer's obligations under the
Seasonal Worker Programme. To become an approved employer, the business must
demonstrate that it has a range of policies and procedures in place for worker
safety, employment obligations and pastoral care.
(3) No. Employees
under the Seasonal Worker Programme are not imported cheap foreign labour. SWP employees
are paid at award rates or at the minimum wage. Agricultural employers seek to
access the Seasonal Worker Programme to ensure that they have sufficient and
reliable labour. It is an opportunity to provide developing nations in our
region with a chance to contribute both to our economy and theirs and help
create an arc of stability.