Seventy-four fruit pickers were found living in this tent on the Granite Belt.
Seventy-four fruit pickers were found living in this tent on the Granite Belt.

Farmer says Bundy needs full time Fair Work Ombudsman

LABOUR hire scams could be prevented if a Fair Work Ombudsman was based out of the Wide Bay, a Queensland parliamentary committee has heard.

The parliament's Finance and Administration Committee is considering new licensing schemes for labour hire companies to stop them ripping off farmers and itinerant workers.

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers chairman Allan Mahoney said having an ombudsman on the ground in Bundaberg full-time could help prevent scams.

"Having a fly-in, fly-out ombudsman is not the answer," Mr Mahoney said.

"We need to have an ombudsman based in Bundaberg. There would be more opportunities to fix these problems as any arise and not just as a Band-Aid," he said.

Mr Mahoney said he had not seen an ombudsman in the region for more than six months.

Fellow farmer Gino Marcon and East Bundy Backpackers co-owner Brian Sparkes echoed Mr Mahoney's calls for an ombudsman to be based in Bundaberg.

Bundaberg grower Sue Zaina said she believed all labour hire companies should be licensed - even if that resulted in higher fees for farmers.

"It would be a relief to know (licensing) was happening, that there is a legal regime labour hire companies have to meet," Ms Zaina said.

She said the committee's report needed to recognise the problems existed in labour hire and not with backpackers.

Youth Hostels Australia chief Julian Ledger said he had heard reports of labour hire companies ripping off backpackers for "as long as he could remember".

"It seems too easy to set up a labour hire company. All it seems you need is a mobile phone and a laptop," Mr Ledger said.

The committee will hear from stakeholders in Moranbah before the report is published on June 30. - ARM NEWSDESK