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Vietnam MOU is probably meaningless, but dangerous if it bears fruit

March 29, 2022

 The Australian Workers’ Union is warning if Vietnamese workers arrive in Australia on the new Ag Visa they would be entitled to even fewer rights and protections than previous guest workers who have nevertheless been routinely exploited in the horticulture industry. 

Given David Littleproud’s long record of false starts and misleading announcements with the Ag Visa, the AWU has noted the new MOU with Vietnam is unlikely to result in an actual hard agreement. However, AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said it was important to be aware of the hazards regardless. 

“Anyone who’s followed David Littleproud’s long and garbled trail of misleading announcements on his Frankenstein visa will know to take this Vietnam MOU with a bucket load of salt,” Mr Walton said. 

“But if Vietnamese nationals were really to arrive in Australia on this visa they would be even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse than previous guest workers. 

“This visa contains fewer protections for workers than the Pacific Island visas that it seeks to compete with. And a Senate Inquiry this year has once again underlined just how prevalent exploitation is even among these relatively protected Pacific Island workers, with Samoan fruit pickers telling the hearing they were paid just $3.20 an hour. 

“In the unlikely event that Mr Littleproud’s able to move his Frankenstein visa out of the dreams of the farming lobby and into the real world it would be a disaster. 11 separate independent reports over the past decade have revealed endemic and widespread abuse of workers in the horticulture sector. This visa would turbo charge it. 

“Mr Littleproud seems happy to throw Australia’s relationship with our Pacific Island neighbours under a bus, because the farming lobby can sniff an opportunity to get access to a stream of even more easily exploitable workers. 

“Mr Littleproud and the farming lobby need to explain why they can’t plug any labour shortages with a combination of unemployed Australians, permanent migrants, and guest workers from the Pacific on visas that contain protections. 

“In the meantime, it’s not good enough for Mr Littleproud to scapegoat the AWU and the Foreign Minister for the failings of his own unethical scheme.” 

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