Australia’s halved backpacker tax perpetuates exploited slave farm labour
Why would an Australian farmer employ locals on decent First World wages, when offered slave rates for ‘no-questions-asked‘ two-bit foreign labourers all tax-free, bused in and out through an arm’s length labour hire firm?
Nudge nudge wink wink, say no more.
Free Trade Not a Level Playing Field
Imposed ‘free trade’ on Australian horticultural farmers forces them have to compete on par with cheap Third World imports who exploit two-bit slave labour. Australia’s First World regulations, standards and input costs are expensive, complicated and time-consuming; and mostly avoidable by the budget Third World. So Australian farmers are behind the eight ball. They innovate and innovate until all that remains to compete with two-bit produce dumped into Australia below cost from Peru, is to play the market at its own game – pay cash to the same two-bit slave labour!
The myth of the ‘free trade’ so-called ‘level playing field‘ is the mirage of globalisation. For a First World farmer to compete directly with a Third World farmer on price simply ignores the glaringly obvious production cost disparity.
But what would self-centred politicians know?
Key to the farmers’ innovative response, is to brand any talk of ‘slave labour’ as being “backpacker labour” and instead all about the noble notion of providing ready work for travelling young and energetic backpackers from Europe, America, Canada.
Most Farm Labour is Third World
Of course, it’s all a ploy to fool ignorant government that has become enraptured by the globalisation wave. The “working holiday” image is part of glorified propaganda bullshit.
What could be better that working on a family farm in Australia and then heading off on a backpacking adventure with all the money you have earned fruit-picking..when you see glowing staged photos of wholesome goodness like this fake one?
In reality, nearly all the cheap labour is from Third World immigrant transient labour. Each crop may be seasonal, but the labourers travel around all year and get the work through greedy labour hire contractors who skim themselves a massive cut.
Labour Hire Firms Tax Scam
Backpacker hostels often work with farms as labour hire firms providing migrants with seasonal work. But many travellers are told to pay in advance for hostels and then placed on long waiting lists for work, their accommodation costs eating into their funds.
It is all about exploitation of the ignorant and vulnerable – either the non-English speaking Third World seasonal worker or of a foreign backpacker ignorant to the rules and too itinerant to bother complaining.
Here are some of the farm labour hire middlemen:
The exploitation has been going on for decades.
Australian Farmers Victims of a Supermarket Cartel
Australia’s corporate supermarket oligopoly (Coles, Woolworths, Aldi) control the fresh food market share, they dictate supplier pricing, forcing farmers to accept nonviable profit margins. It is effectively a cartel, yet the regulator (the ACCC) turns a corrupted blind eye.
The only wriggle room they have is in labour costs.
So farmers are forced to “innovate”, else go to the wall.
The farmer says he supplies Australia’s corporate supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths competing against imported asparagus from Third World Peru, Thailand, Mexico because his prices are so low.
Labour hire contractors travel around the country promoting their rackets to illegal Third Worlders and unwary travellers, promising to cut farmers and factory owners’ labour costs by 30 to 40 per cent. If farmers can outsource their labour workforce so they don’t have responsibility for hiring, firing, tax, super and sick pay – they can just away with that admin and headache – then they will.
The farmer as the ultimate employer in cahoots with the labour hire firms and the non-residents are all complicit in the tax avoidance scam.
Clearly, the regulator, the Australia Tax Office is seriously wanting. It is in gross breach of its statutory legal duty by ignoring and condoning serial tax avoidance by foreign workers for decades which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars each year for decades.
Incompetent and corrupt Canberran ATO heads need to roll.
Farms Raids for Tax Office PR
Yesterday, Australian Border Force raided the foreign-owned Joe Vizzarri’s asparagus farm 60km south east of Melbourne at a place called Koo Wee Rup. More than 50 illegal workers have been arrested and taken into immigration detention.
The Tax Office invited the media to film.
Joe’s prices are competitive to the Australian supermarket oligoply because his prices are on par with Third World importers knocking at the door from Peru, Thailand, Mexico. Joe can compete with his Third World competitors on a level playing field because he uses the same tactics – pays cash to the same Third World labourers and the same zero tax.
Taskforce Cadena saw sixty Australian Border Force and Australian Federal Police officers descend on the farm, executing simultaneous warrants at nearby residential properties to nab the illegal farm work syndicate and seizing $400,000 cash.
During the raid around 20 workers fled into surrounding paddocks and fields, with officers giving chase. They are all expected to be deported back to where they came from.
Joe Vizzarri is one of the largest growers in the Kooweerup-Dalmore region, producing 93 per cent of Australia’s asparagus. He happens to be the boss of the Australian Asparagus Council, so if he finds it tough…
He says his crops struggle with temperature extremes so he gets his workers to harvest in the dark through the night when it is cooler.
The Australian Government is about to reduce foreign backpacker tax from 32.5% to just 15% and then claims it is designed to raise $560 million a year from supposed ‘young backpackers‘ on a working holiday doing all the fruit and vegetable picking on Australian farms.
The unscrupulous labour hire firms consorting with foreign backpackers have lied to the Australian Tax Office by falsely declaring the foreign backpacker on a “working holiday visa to be an Australian resident for tax purposes and so pay no tax for the first tax bracket. It has been a tax avoidance scam and the ATO has known about it.
Backpacker Tax Change is but Tinkering
Halving the rate to 15% won’t raise lost tax revenue. If collected, the extra tax paid will drive lower pay to the already slave wage conditions. The whole backpacker tax debating in Canberra has been a six month long Liberal-Nationals autoerotic asphyxiation wank costing yet more taxpayer millions and achieving zilch.
The Canberra misguided ‘head-in-the-sand’ theory is that only foreign backpacker are prepared to work on the farms and so the farmers need the backpackers to harvest crops at the right time. The backpackers then spend all their income in the regional towns, so the money goes back into the local economy.
The reality is that in the main, Third World labourers, not backpackers, do the slave labour work in appalling conditions, have large commissions and fees extracted from their pay, and the pittance they do get in cash gets wired back to their family in the Third World – Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Pacific Islands. Some backpackers give it a go, only to find out what it is like to live and work in Third World conditions, albeit downunder.
How will the government collect the tax if the government doesn’t know they are working or who they are?
And the farmers say they will suffer if their “backpackers” get taxed. Wedged between competing with imposed ‘Free Trade’ Third World cheap imports, and by supermarkets dictating breakeven pricing and then the tax office denying cheap labour, Australian farms and their rural communities are set to go to the wall.
Dark Industry Perpetuates
The black Market in foreign worker exploitation on Australia farm is rife:
- Backbreaking work in 40C heat without enough water or proper health and safety training.
- Routine underpayment down to $2.45 per hour
- Sexual harassment
- Blackmail – withholding passports and slave labour to get work 417 visa extensions
- Pay docking for excessive charges for dodgy dorm accommodation, tools, meals and drinking water.
First World Backpacker Sylviannie Pinon from Toulouse in France tried out fruit picking in Victoria.
She was told to pay upfront for two weeks’ accommodation in Mildura, north-west Victoria, and was given work picking grapes at a rate of around $1 per bucket.
“I started work at 6.30am and worked until 5.30pm without a break. “We didn’t have access to a kitchen for lunch and were only given a refill of our water bottles once during the day.
“At the end of an 11-hour day spent under 43C, we had to count our buckets. I had 75 full buckets, which should have given me $75 roughly. I asked the owner if he could fill my form for the visa — the proof that I had spent one more day working in rural Australia in order to extend my visa — and he just refused.
“I asked the driver from the backpackers for some help. He said ‘No, we don’t do this.’ So I suspected that the owner of the vineyard probably had no ABN number and it was an illegitimate operation.
“We were told our money would be given to us the following day. When I went to fetch it at the reception of the backpackers, a little envelope was awaiting for me. Inside, $27.
“My $27 equated to $2.45 per hour. And of course, if we remove the price of the journey organised by the backpackers to take us to the vineyard ($10 return) and the price of the scissors to cut the grapes, which I obviously had to purchase myself, there was not much left … just maybe enough to pay for one night in that cold backpackers … And because I had paid two weeks in advance, I just felt trapped.”
A similar exploitation experience in Mildura in north-west Victoria saw two Brits offered $22/hr tp pick grapes.
The flight cost $800 from Melbourne. On arrival they had to sign a form agreeing that the money we pay the contractor was for a “job search”. The farm hand, Don, demanded a $900 cash bond upfront for two weeks rent in advance plus a bond.
“He then drove us straight to our accommodation which, to our surprise, was a house with about 30 people living there (4 bedrooms). After having a strict talk from the ‘head of house’ (who had been there for four weeks) about the rules of the house and respecting Don (otherwise he would kick us out without question or delay-which he has done many times before), we then got shown to our room….the garage, with 6 bunk beds in it and no heating. At this point I was feeling very uncomfortable, unwelcome and very homesick.
We started work the next day at 7am, it was freezing and after a very cold night, we weren’t feeling ready at all. We turned up to a farm full of rows of dead vines, no fruit. We were vine pulling. We could only afford thin gloves and we spent the whole day until 6pm, pulling old vine branches off the wires.
We were then told we got paid about 15c a vine. In a full day we earned max of $30 each a day. “Rent” was $150 each a week. If we worked 7 days a week we’d earn max $210 each, leaving us with $60 a week for living essentials.”
And check this typical advert posted on Gumtree 4th October 2016:
Most Third Worlders who can’t speak English, don’t know their work rights.
Australia’s fruit picking industry has come under the spotlight after British backpackers Mia Ayliffe-Chung and Tom Jackson were killed at a north Queensland hostel in August. Ms Ayliffe-Chung’s mother, Rosie Ayliffe, is campaigning to persuade the Australian government to improve conditions for temporary workers like her daughter, who was employed at a sugarcane farm at Home Hill, south of Townsville.
So the slave farm work scam perpetuates – visa fraud, tax avoidance, illegal work, exploitation of foreign nationals, Australian horticulture screwed with no long term prospects.