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Australia Illegal worker amnesty ruled out by Government infuriating farmers calling for an industry clean out

04:40  20 october  2020
04:40  20 october  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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WA's Agriculture Minister is gathering support as she calls for an amnesty on illegal workers as harvest looms, but her Federal counterpart isn't "What we do know is that in the industry there has been … largely Malaysian and Vietnamese workers that have come out here on various visa classes

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a group of people on a dirt road: An illegal worker amnesty to allow undocumented workers to come forward has been squashed. (ABC Rural: Emma Brown, file photo) © Provided by ABC NEWS An illegal worker amnesty to allow undocumented workers to come forward has been squashed. (ABC Rural: Emma Brown, file photo)

Farmers have pilloried the Federal Government for ruling out an illegal worker amnesty that would allow undocumented workers to come forward without fear of being deported.

Victorian Farmers' Federation spokeswoman Emma Germano has suggested the Government was "the ultimate dodgy labour hire company that financially underpins a model that is not fair, not ethical, and not sustainable", having ruled out the proposal.

On Monday night, before a hearing of Senate Estimates, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash confirmed the Government would not allow such an amnesty.

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The VFF has renewed calls for an amnesty for illegal workers and a dedicated agricultural visa. "We keep talking about the issue of amnesty for "They don't need to be working out how to get more market access into foreign markets when actually it's the Australian Government that stops us here at

As London Mayor, he had called for an amnesty for illegal immigrants and they suspected he’d drop the The idea of illegal migrants as a relatively small, probably criminal underclass is impossible to Too much government energy is spent pursuing people who are an obvious asset to the country, and

"The Government's position is there will not be an amnesty," Senator Cash said.

"An amnesty would send a dangerous message that it is okay to flout our strong visa and migration rules, principles that this Government has worked incredibly hard over a period of time to secure," she said.

The hearing heard from Government officials that there are an estimated 70,000 unlawful, non-citizens in Australia.

Some farm groups, including the VFF, had been calling for an amnesty to help the industry address its issues with undocumented workers and clean up the industry.

Ms Germano, one of the first to advocate for illegal workers to come forward, with protections, in 2017, said farmers were frustrated the Government was not prepared to pursue the idea.

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During a 1998 "Operation Get Out " campaign, illegal workers were rounded up and placed in detention centers. Amnesty International has called on the Malaysian government to reform its labour laws and promptly Malaysia Cuts and Bans Foreign Workers and Requires a Training Course for a Visa.

"Farmers are p***ed off that they [Government] pretended to look at it when they never had genuine intention of making this thing go through," she said.

"Instead they support a black market for horticulture wages that undermines the farmers that are compliant and pay the right wages.

"It also puts the undocumented workers in constant danger."

Earlier this month, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the Federal Government had discussed an amnesty as a potential initiative to help address a farm worker shortage.

The proposal was raised by Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes at a meeting of agriculture ministers earlier this year in light of the COVID-19 restrictions which have prevented workers from entering Australia.

An amnesty is supported by the West Australian Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan.

Last year, a report by the University of Adelaide found Australian farmers often relied on illegal labour or risked leaving their crops to fail.

It said worker exploitation had become the "established norm".

Typically, about 70 per cent of the horticulture industries workforce is foreign, and there have been concerns raised about how farmers will harvest their crops this summer due to Australia's decision to close its borders in March.

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usr: 5
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