Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Part 1 - Slavery in Australia. Is the 'Let 'er rip" attitude on visas for overseas workers going to be stopped? The Robinvale experience

Thank God it doesn't happen here in Australia?
You are sadly and badly mistaken.

Last night, Four Corners in their program, Slaving Away, did just that too.

To some Australians, I feel sure that the contents of last night's Four Corners program will have been a revelation.  To many of us, it was not.  To many of us, it is close to home.  One of the towns (and there were quite a few) which was highlighted last night was Robinvale, situated on the Murray River in north-western Victoria.

I have posted twice before on this blog in connection with Robinvale.  Please background yourselves with these.  

The segment in last night's program showed nothing that was new to the inhabitaants of Robinvale. 

In one of the posts linked above, I embedded an article about Robinvale written by the well- known journalist Elisabeth Wynhausen.  This was published in The Australian almost seven years ago.  Little has changed.  Those who own the fruit get fatter. The labour hire Simon Legrees around Robinvale prosper.  The enslaved play dodgem and try to remain invisible.  

To see or to find the invisible slaves one has to be up early - about 5.30am - and be around at pick-up time, about 4pm.  There is a view in Robinvale that the drivers of the pick-up and deliver buses claim Centrelink benefits. With their bus-driving work, probably cash in hand, taking place outside office hours it is not difficult for them to give an appearance of being unemployed.  Last night, showed the oppressors as Chinese - but my information from Robinvale says that the Tongans are pretty good at this.  There is a significant Tongan population in Robinvale - even to having its own churches. 

People are packed into their accommodation, cooking in their rooms and living space.  This is of concern to the local Fire Brigade  who have noted the people packing in local houses and accommodation.  There have been no people burned to death - but it is always of concern.  One motel  burned to the ground last year and has not been rebuilt.  The motel was thought to have housed 80 to 100 people enslaved in a labour hire program.  The fire occurred about 8.30 am. The occupants had been taken to the farms.  But the shudder comes as people imagine what might have occurred at another time of day.

There are queries in Robinvale of how the powers-that-be might effectively tackle this rural slavery. There are queries about taxation - is it being paid or is it being avoided?  There are queries about occupational superannuation - is it being paid or is it being avoided?  Does the enslaved labour understand occupational superannuation?  Should the labour be still around at retirment, do they know how to claim any payments (if there are payments) and what happens to support them in their later years?

As reported in my previous posts Robinvale thinks it is being screwed; done-over; short-changed by what is happening.  Housing availability can be categorised as DIRE.  Nearby Swan Hill has no housing problem.  Any money available for housing in the area, seems to end up in Swan Hill while nearb Robinvale needs at least 100 houses.  It is estimated that, overall, the town is short by 750 beds. 

The locals would like to see a recognition of vertical integration of the whole labour hire rorting - which may mean bringing together ovelapping departments, adjoining interests.  There's taxation; wages; health; superannuation and retirement income; industrial relatioons; immigration ..... 

And there has to be enforcement, severe clamping down.  But is there an inclination to do this at the Federal level?  You see, the Federal Government has made it clear that they are going to expedite the Working Holiday Visa (417) and the Employer Sponsored Work Visa (457).  To do this, the current Federal Government has introduced the concept of Designated Areas.  In short our current Australian Government is aiding and abetting the shady side of the street in regard to the easy use of 417s and 457s.  All this at a time of very high youth unemployment and underemployment.  

So what does this really mean - what is the end result?

1. The government has surreptitiously introduced policies that fit into a total picture of driving down wages.  Is this to convenience employers? Is it so Australia can compete againswt low-wage countries, particularly those in Aisa?
2. If there is increased employment under 417s and 457s, what is the government doing to ensure there is no exploitation of workers in these categories.  Rorts and abuse under 457s have a long history. Recent rorts and abuses can be seen here >>>  

sc417 visa holders abused and encouraged not to pay tax 

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