DESPERATE backpackers in Bundaberg are being forced to line up at soup kitchens to get a meal because labour hire companies are ripping them off.
Bundaberg MP Leanne Donaldson (pictured) made the claim during a speech in State Parliament last week while supporting new laws for Queensland hire companies.
The laws will force labour hire companies to pass strict licensing tests to operate.
Ms Donaldson said the Bundaberg electorate was filled with backpacker hostels, backpackers and labour hire contractors.
"The backpackers come into the area believing they will get work when they arrive,” she told parliament.
"Unfortunately, quite often they turn up to the hostel and there is no work because the crops are not quite ready to pick or not ready to be packed yet and they have nothing to do so they do not earn an income.
"Effectively, they are stuck in the hostel.
"They have no income and they are already incurring a debt before they have even got out on to a farm or earned the small pittance they are earning.”
Ms Donaldson said the homeless were not the only ones to line up at soup kitchens in her electorate, but backpackers were too.
"They are not doing it to exploit or rip off soup kitchens; they are doing it because they do not have any food and they have no income,” she said.
The union-backed laws will mean all labour hire providers operating in Queensland will need to:
pass a fit-and-proper person test;
comply with workplace laws, including workers' compensation, wages and superannuation;
pay a licence fee; and
report regularly on their operations.
Queensland Council of Unions general secretary Ros McLennan said regulating the labour hire industry was necessary to stamp out rogue operators engaging in wage theft from vulnerable workers.
"Workers and unions have been working for many years for reform in this area, and we applaud the State Labor Government for acting decisively,” Ms McLennan. said
"Before these laws, it was easier to start a labour hire firm than getting your licence to drive, and that wasn't right.”
Labour hire companies who are found to flout the laws will have their license revoked.
The licensing scheme will begin next year.