Rogue workers face Pitt stop

20 May, 2015 06:15 AM
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MP Keith Pitt has waged a personal campaign to see industry nasties turfed out of the ag labour hire sector.
We just need to ensure we stamp out the bad seeds
MP Keith Pitt has waged a personal campaign to see industry nasties turfed out of the ag labour hire sector.

KEITH Pitt has a sharp warning for "bad seeds" in the agricultural labour hire sector.

"The message is pretty clear; if you're out there doing the wrong thing, if you're a labour hire contractor who is doing the wrong thing, if you are hiring illegal workers, if you are exploiting workers or underpaying or not paying at all, then this taskforce will be targeting you," he said.

The Federal Member for Hinkler, based in Bundaberg, has waged a personal campaign to see industry nasties turfed out.

That campaign is set to bolstered by the announcement of a multi-agency taskforce will to tackle worker exploitation.

He said penalties will be savage.

"If you hire illegal workers, the fine is around $20,000. If you are a company, it's $100,000 per worker," Mr Pitt said.

"If you happen to fall under the trafficking category, you can do 20 years. So there are some very, very serious components of the law."

The taskforce is welcome progress for the former farmer who openly declares he's had enough of reports and reviews.

"There have been far too many inquiries, far too many reports," he said.

He said agriculture industry groups have been very supportive of the move to weed out rogue labour hire businesses.

"They've all been very consistent- they don't need more regulation and they need a workforce. So we just need to ensure we stamp out the bad seeds," Mr Pitt said.

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers executive officer Peter Hockings told ABC radio earlier this week that grower groups have never called for further regulation.

"There is enough regulation in place. Any further regulation will only be an impost on the honest businesses and on the honest workers," he said.

Last week's Federal Budget aimed to iron out another kink in the illegal labour system in terms of lost taxes, although legitimate workers will be stung also.

The government will change the tax residency rules from July 1, 2016 to remove the Tax Free Threshold for Working Holiday Visa holders (Visas 417) meaning they will now be taxed from their first dollar of income at 32.5 per cent.

From that date, backpackers and working holiday-makers will no longer be eligible for the $18,000 tax-free threshold.

The announcement drew mixed reactions from regional mayors and industry with some saying it will deter workers from coming to Australia.

Others, like Mr Pitt, said it was important that everyone contributes.

"At the moment, they are not being paid at all, or they are being paid cash or they are completely off the radar and making no contribution," he said.

"Not only them, but the people who hire them. They are not paying super, they are not paying GST. They are running this cash economy and effectively not paying anything."

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Ashley Walmsley

is the editor of Good Fruit and Vegetables.

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