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Broken system fails everyone, not just international student and backpacker victims of wage theft

Senior law lecturer at UNSW, Bassina Farbenblum says, "Our study confirms that Australia has a large, silent underclass of underpaid migrant workers,” commenting on a report entitled, "Migrant Worker Justice Initiative." The authors do not question the impact on Australians of this corrupt industrial and academic underbelly, but observe complacently, that if Australia is to "position itself as the destination of choice for international students and backpackers, reforms must be urgently implemented to prevent wage theft and enable migrant workers to report and recover unpaid wages." This report would benefit from wider and more historical context: When most wages in Australia were regulated by state awards, and strong unions defended Federal awards, there was very little illegal labour, hence little motivation to import cheap labour. It was easy to enforce written awards that covered entire industries and occupations, and were regulated by dedicated entities. This changed when Kennett abolished Victorian State Awards in 1993, setting the scene for Howard's Workchoices, and going on to widen the use of the corporations clause in the Australian constitution, which exempted corporations from many employer obligations. (See The privatised for-profit university system gave up on real research in favour of importing students like cash-cows, to pay large fees and rent university owned apartments. Many of these students had to work any conditions in order to survive and pay their fees, fearing that if they failed to retain student status, they would be deported. A win-win situation for exploiters all round, as it drove down wages for everyone. In fact, if 'reforms' were successfully implemented to prevent wage theft from migrant workers' we would soon see a huge reduction in the numbers of migrant workers. It's all slave labour under other names. ( Editor.)

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