90 second statement – Contract Labour Hire
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (13:37): At their recent Federal Council meeting The Nationals voted unanimously in favour of a motion I moved, seeking a multijurisdictional taskforce to address exploitation of foreign workers in the horticulture sector. I moved:
… that: “the Federal Council recognises the existence of labour hire contractors who are not paying employees correctly, and calls on the Government to form a multi-jurisdictional, multi-portfolio task force to advise enforcement agencies”.
The motion was seconded by former police detective Senator Barry O’Sullivan. Allegations and complaints made to my office range from the underpayment and exploitation of workers to tax evasion, visa breaches, racial discrimination, intimidation of farmers and overcrowding in private residential dwellings.
Earlier this year, Senator O’Sullivan and I hosted a stakeholder forum in Brisbane. The very clear message we received from that meeting was that new legislation and further inquiries are not the answer. Stakeholders want real action. They say there needs to be greater enforcement of existing laws and greater cooperation between the many relevant agencies, across all three levels of government. I have briefed the relevant ministers’ offices on the issue and the outcomes of the forum, and look forward to working with them to address this very serious issue.
The majority of businesses do the right thing, but it is imperative that we ensure our seasonal workers are protected, businesses have a level playing field and Australia remains a destination of choice for overseas students and holiday makers. Seasonal workers are vital to Queensland’s agriculture and tourism industries and the Australian economy more broadly. Action is needed and it is needed now. The time for inquiries is at an end. (Time expired)