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Modern Slavery

By John Coyne

Last year, the Australian Government made a series of announcements regarding visa reforms to supplement the agricultural sector labour supply. The first change was to absorb the existing Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme into the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme. The second change was to establish a separate visa category, the Australian Agriculture Visa (AAV).

Unions, academics and rights groups have raised concerns about the regulatory vulnerabilities of these schemes to worker exploitation and modern slavery. The Fair Work Ombudsman’s 2018 inquiry into workplace practices in the agricultural industry found evidence of illegal labour hire arrangements and misuse of piece rates. Senate hearings have heard from Pacific seasonal workers about unsafe conditions and indentured labour.

This event explored the modern slavery challenge in Australia and its supply chains, with a focus on the agricultural industry and the announced reforms. The event began with a keynote address by Lorraine Finlay, Australia's Human Rights Commissioner, followed by a panel discussion featuring Professor Jennifer Burn (University of Technology Sydney), Lina Garcia (Australian Red Cross) and Elise Gordon (Walk Free) on the impacts of these visa reforms and the workplace practices within the agriculture sector, moderated by Dr John Coyne.