Senate debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021


Agriculture Industry: Pacific Workers

1:56 pm

Photo of Tony SheldonTony Sheldon (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak about Geoff and Jane Smith. Geoff is a Pentecostal pastor who has dedicated much of his life to supporting South Sea islanders who work on Central Queensland farms. Jane's grandparents came to Australia as victims of blackbirding, and a lot of the people they help are victims of very similar circumstances. Labour hire firms lure Pacific workers to Australia and shove them into rooms where they sleep with 15 other people. They work from dawn until well into the night while getting paid just a few dollars an hour. One payslip I saw had a $14.20 deduction for drinking water! This is economic blackbirding; it's modern blackbirding.

In July, Geoff and Jane were gardening at their Bundaberg home when they were raided by nine Border Force troopers. They ransacked their home and Jane was left sobbing and shaken. Why did the nine Border Force troopers raid an elderly Christian minister? It's because he had the gall to help victims of economic blackbirding. To top it off, the Border Force search warrant, which I have seen, demands all correspondence Geoff has had with the High Commissioner of Vanuatu.

The UN's Vienna convention prohibits governments from seizing correspondence by foreign diplomats. Why is this government serving illegal warrants relating to foreign diplomats? Why is this government running a protection racket for modern slavers? Why is this government introducing an 'anything goes' ag visa that will make the situation worse? I demand that the Minister for Home Affairs come here and explain herself to this place.