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Opposition in Australia calling for Seasonal Worker Program investigation

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The Opposition in Australia has called for an investigation into the Federal Government-run Seasonal Worker Program following revelations 12 workers died in its first five years.

Opposition spokesman for employment and workplace relations Brendan O’Connor said the number of deaths of Pacific Islanders who were all in Australia on the work programme was “alarming and required an urgent investigation and explanation,” The Weekly Times reports.

A Weekly Times-Courier Mail report last week revealed that 12 workers had died on the programme since it started in 2012, and another worker died during the scheme’s pilot from 2009 -2012.

O’Connor said the high number of deaths needed to be explained.

“Given this is a Commonwealth employment programme, these tragic deaths require a proper investigation and an explanation by the Prime Minister and Minister for Employment,” he said.

“(Prime Minister) Turnbull and his Liberals also need to explain what measures they are putting in place to ensure other workers on the programme are safe.”

Assistant workplace relations spokeswoman and Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters told The Weekly Times the number of deaths on the programme was “absolutely appalling”.

“It’s our national disgrace and our national shame, the (Employment) Minister, has to come out and explain how this has happened,” she said.

“There is too much secrecy about this programme, the Minister has been so focused on bashing unions, she has missed what’s going on in her own department.”

A spokesman for Employment Minister Michaelia Cash’s office said: “The Seasonal Worker Programme has robust protections for workers and all employers are rigorously vetted by the Department of Employment before being allowed to recruit workers”.