Hogan: No labour hire abusers in Clarence

Kevin Hogan says he has not heard of any worker exploitation in the Clarence Valley fruit-picking industry.
Kevin Hogan says he has not heard of any worker exploitation in the Clarence Valley fruit-picking industry. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan said he had not had any reports officially or anecdotally of the type of behaviour seen on 4 Corners.

But Mr Hogan recognised it was a danger for the region as industries like blueberry farming continued to expand rapidly.

He supported a call from parliamentary and party colleague, the Member for Hinkler, Keith Pitt, for a multi-jurisdictional task force into the practices of labour hire companies supplying overseas workers to farmers and food processing firms.

Monday night's report showed labour hire firms paying workers as little as a few dollars an hour for up to 18-hour days.

Workers also complained of sexual assaults and harassment as well as workplace bullying while on the job.

"I'm sure most of the owners of the farms and processing plants are acting above board, but are let down by the unscrupulous behaviour of the labour hire firms," he said.

Mr Hogan's colleague, the Member for Cowper and Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker said there were avenues for people to seek redress.

"Monday's 4 Corners program certainly raised some concerns in relation to labour hiring practices in some fruit- and vegetable-picking areas," he said.

"Labour hire companies are legally bound to treat all their employees in accordance with workplace law.

"Locally, I know the Department of Immigration conducts inspections of local farms on a regular basis seeking out any illegal workers.

"If workers believe they are not being paid their full entitlements they should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman."

Mr Hartsuyker said the Fair Work Ombudsman has an Overseas Workers' Team operating across Australia.

"The Fair Work Ombudsman has dealt with over 6000 requests for assistance from visa-holders, recovered more than $4 million in outstanding wages and entitlements, provided advice and assistance to over 5000 overseas workers and visa-holders who have called the Fair Work Infoline," he said.



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