AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton (Photo: LinkedIn)

September 6, 2021

The Australian Workers’ Union is calling on Agriculture Minister David Littleproud to clarify urgently details about the Federal Government’s agricultural visa scheme.

The union fears it could “entrench modern slavery” and undermine the existing Pacific visa program.

AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton has written to Mr Littleproud calling on the Minister to answer a range of key questions.

Mr Walton slammed the process of introducing the visa and suggested it could damage relationships in the region at a time when geopolitical influence was a contested space.

“This visa was dropped out of the blue and I don’t think this government has thought through the consequences,” Mr Walton said.

“It appears this new visa will throw our Pacific friends under a bus, all because some dodgy farmers want more access to more exploitable workers.

“At a time when China is circling for influence in our region, Australia’s apparently going to trash our Pacific friendships so a handful of farmers can save some bucks by treating Asian workers like serfs.”

Mr Walton said the agriculture visa was announced without consultation or scrutiny.

“The Minister used the cover of a pandemic to announce this new visa class and he now owes it to the nation to answer a number of key questions,” Mr Walton said.

“Given the risk to Australia’s critical strategic position and relationships within the Pacific, why weren’t all of our Pacific neighbours consulted on the parameters of the program?

“What quarantine arrangements will be put in place for arriving workers, and will local quarantine facilities put regional communities at risk of exposure to the fast-spreading Delta strain of COVID-19?

“What labour market testing requirements will be put in place to ensure that locals are not displaced by cheap, exploitable labour?

“This looks a lot like the PM throwing the Nats a quick bone to ease tensions over climate change action. But he’s throwing out our international credibility in the process.”

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