Queensland Senator Susan McDonald … unions are “committing treason” (Photo: Supplied)

February 15, 2022

LNP Senator Susan McDonald has accused unions of “treason” for “actively sabotaging attempts to source desperately needed workers to pick crops”.

The Queensland Senator said farmers were owed an apology for the way unions were “smearing them internationally”.

Senator McDonald said claims by the Australian Workers’ Union that many Australian farms have “exploitation at the core of their business models” were “abhorrent and unfactual”.

She said the AWU and the ACTU were both “happy to run down Australia internationally and leave farmers in the lurch”.

“They are, in effect, committing treason against Australian growers,” Senator McDonald said.

“The Morrison Government has no less than six strategies in place to attract more workers to help pick crops, but we have the extraordinary situation of union representatives meeting with foreign ambassadors urging them to discourage their citizens from picking Aussie fruit and veg.

“These government strategies are backed by horticulture peak body Growcom’s federally funded Fair Farms program which assesses farms’ labour structures via a third party and awards them accreditation as places that look after their workers.

“The unions are seizing on a few rogues in the labour hire industry that have exploited workers, but that would be like someone saying the threats, violence, intimidation, trespassing and corruption in some unions means such behaviour is at the core of how unions operate.

“The truth is farmers are disgusted by stories of workers being mistreated and refuse to engage labour hire companies with dodgy reputations.

“Growcom and other bodies such as the Queensland Farmers’ Federation, Bowen Gumlu Growers Association and FNQ Growers have publicly stated zero tolerance for worker exploitation.

“There are laws in place to punish those who mistreat workers, and we continually encourage workers and farmers to report any concerns.

“In today’s digital age of instant information sharing, it defies belief that worker exploitation on Australian farms could happen on the scale claimed by unions.

“Social media would be awash with images and horror stories, urging their countrymen not to come to Australia for farm work.

“It’s not glamorous work; it’s dirty, hot and hard. Some of the accommodation is pretty basic and you may get roused on if you don’t perform.

“But before the pandemic, there were 150,000 backpackers in Australia eager to work on farms and experience life in regional communities.

“At the peak of the COVID crisis, this number dropped to 30,000 but we’re seeing a gradual increase in this number each month, including from our neighbours in the Pacific who have sent 20,500 people to work on farms, and who still have 35,000 young, fit, healthy people pre-approved for visas and waiting to be called up.

“I would urge any farm needing labour to access this Pacific pool and get them processed by their respective State governments ASAP.

“To the farmers upset by the actions of trade unions, I encourage you to ignore them and keep holding your heads high.

“Despite the unions’ best efforts to demonise you and to sabotage government attempts to alleviate worker shortages, I can say the Liberals and Nationals Government is firmly committed to ensuring you can continue making a living feeding and clothing us and the world.”

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