News

Farmer push to base Fair Work Ombudsman in Bundaberg

Backpackers Letty Bell and Dylan Haywood say they were treated unfairly in Bundaberg, barely making enough to cover their rent.
Backpackers Letty Bell and Dylan Haywood say they were treated unfairly in Bundaberg, barely making enough to cover their rent. Eliza Goetze

"WE'RE the second biggest industry in Australia. We deserve the infrastructure we need to operate."

Local agriculture industry advocates including Allan Mahoney are pushing for the Federal Government to bring the office of the Fair Work Ombudsman to Bundaberg.

Mr Mahoney, along with Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers managing director Bree Grima, has met with Hinkler MP Keith Pitt to discuss the idea which would put the government's decentralisation policy into practice, bringing public service jobs - and hopefully, justice - to the region.

The push comes as the debate on backpacker welfare has flared up again.

Mr Mahoney appeared last night on ABC's Australian Story, which centred on a campaign by the mother of Home Hill murder victim Mia Ayliffe-Chung against what she claimed were "prison- like" conditions for backpackers on 457 visas.

"It's terribly sad two young people lost their lives," Mr Mahoney told the NewsMail.

"But this incident was at the hands of a French national with mental health issues, which has nothing to do with our visa system.

"Do I agree with our visa system? Not completely. It needs tweaking."

Unscrupulous labour hire contractors, growers, hostels and even other backpackers "preyed on the vulnerable", he said.

"But if I believed this industry was full of bad people I wouldn't be in it.

"We've used 370-400,000 backpackers a year in Australia - 5-7000 a day in Bundaberg - with very few issues."

He said the current modus operandi of the Fair Work department making visits to the region with several weeks' notice needed to change.

"Who are they going to catch? If you're going to catch a burglar you don't put your police light on.

"I was brutally honest," he added of his TV appearance. "I hope it triggers some change."

Keith Pitt did not confirm if he supported bringing the ombudsman here.

"I've discussed with Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers the decentralisation program and the benefits it could bring to the region," he said.

"Every part of Australia deserves the benefits of the economic growth and jobs that government agencies and jobs can deliver to local communities.

"Portfolio Ministers will need to report back to Cabinet by August on which of their departments are suitable to be moved to regional Australia (and file) business cases by December."

Mr Mahoney said he was grateful for government support but "frustrated" at the pace of progress.

Earlier this year two backpackers spoke out about what they said was deceiving and unfair treatment in their time picking fruit in Bundaberg.

Topics:  bundaberg decentralisation farming keith pitt mp



Crewman winched off bulk carrier

LIFEFLIGHT: Ill man winched off the deck of a bulk carrier by Bundaberg based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter.

Winch mission to save ill crewman

Man, 18, says mum bought bongs for him

Cannabis.

'I just had them to show' he tells the court

Man, 18, rides bike into pole

Man suffers minor injuries after bike injury

Man suffers minor injuries after falling off bike

Local Partners

Call for blood and plasma donations in Bundaberg

THERE are more than 70 appointments available over the next two weeks for whole blood donations, and more than 60 for plasma donations.


Ten things to do in Bundy this weekend

DAZZLING DISPLAY: Fireworks will light up the sky at Bargara tomorrow night from 7pm.

Fireworks spectacular, raft race, sewing bee and more

Working class? Man, Gympie's got the show for you

Jimmy Barnes

Aussie rock icons coming to Gympie for 150th celebrations.

Tables turn as rescue crew takes on gruelling mountain

EPIC CHALLENGE: Hundreds of runners will tackle the 4.2km run from the heart of Pomona to the top of Mt Cooroora and back on Sunday.

They are usually the people coming to the rescue of adventurers

'What gig?' Drummer left out of Powderfinger reunion

IT was the reunion gig that quickly became the talk of music fans across the nation.

FINAL PHONE CALL: Princes’ regret over last words to Diana

Prince William and Prince Harry have opened up about their mum, Princess Diana, in a new documentary. Picture: ITVSource:Supplied

Two princes regret rushing the last phonecall with their mother

OPINION: Splendour reached peak glitter

Courtney Smoulden and Dylan Barker sporting some of the extensive glitter available at Splendour in the Grass 2017 near Byron Bay.

2017 is, officially, the year of Splendour in the Glitter

Karl Stefanovic breaks his silence on divorce, new love

Karl poses for Stellar’s July 23 issue. Picture: Steven Chee Source:Stellar Magazine

Stefanovic on his marriage breakdown, new girlfriend

What's on the small screen this week

Matty J and Osher Gunsberg in a scene from The Bachelor.

WINNERS will be crowned on MasterChef and Australian Ninja Warrior.

Beauty blogger’s horribly racist product review

Popular beauty blogger run off the internet for racist comment

Financial scandal destroys alternative community

Families who gave thousands to be a part of an alternative community at Mt Burrell, west of Murwillumbah, are now trying to recover their investment. Picture: Jamie Hanson

Dream Utopia turns into a nightmare

Mum buys $900,000 apartment for her 8-year-old son

Tania Katsanis beat another couple of homeowners to secure the winning bid.

The apartment was a 'bargain' as the property market bottoms out

Townhouses planned for Nicklin Way site

CBRE's Brendan Robins and Rem Rafter on site at Wurtulla.

Prime 1.5ha Sunshine Coast property set for town homes development

Owner tells of ghostly goings on at old Mackay pub

GHOST STORIES: Several people have died at the Mirani Hotel

Owner says pub is 'definitely haunted'