Sydney, Nov 12: The Australian Workers’ Union is urging the government to halt the use of its low-restriction agriculture visa in light of the fact that 16 Pacific Islanders have lost their lives while working in Australia during Covid.
Reports today reveal 16 workers brought to Australia on Pacific Island guest worker visas have died during the pandemic.
Their tragic deaths add to the shocking picture of widespread abuse and mistreatment across Australian agriculture.
Earlier this year, the federal government announced a new class of agriculture visa to allow farms easier access to guest labour with fewer safeguards and restrictions than existing Pacific Island visas.
AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said the spate of deaths should force the government to stop the use of its low-restriction visa.
“Let’s remember when David Littleproud announced the new agriculture visa his argument was that existing Pacific visas had too many annoying safeguards for farmers,” Walton said.
“If 16 people have died on the visa with the safeguards, what should we expect under the anything-goes visa?
“These 16 people who have died were guests in our country.
“We have failed them.
“Every death has its own unique circumstances.
“What bonds them is they happened on the watch of a government that has continually denied the widespread abuse they know is happening on Australian farms.
For that, Australia owes the Pacific Islands an apology.
“The Pacific Island visa schemes were designed to strengthen the bonds between Australia and the Pacific Island nations.
“ Instead this government has turned a blind eye to safety, while simultaneously undercutting the whole scheme with their new visa.
“We know the government wants to bully and intimidate Pacific Island workers into not ‘absconding’ from their work.
“Small wonder some would want to escape when the working conditions they labour under have resulted in the deaths of 16 people during the pandemic.”
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