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Speech: Wage Theft (Matters of Interest)

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:22): I rise to speak about wage theft. Yesterday, Adelaide citizens were horrified to see an incident in Gouger Street in our city, when a young woman simply demanded a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. It is understood that she had been working trial shifts at a bubble tea shop called Fun Tea, but it was not so fun for her when she asked for her fair day's pay, to be slapped on the face and kicked in the stomach. She required ambulance attention and, indeed, hospital attention for simply asking for a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.

I have to commend this young woman for her courage and bravery. She stood up against something that is rife in the South Australian community, something that has rightly shocked the South Australian community: she stood up against wage theft. Unfortunately, through my work—and I know full well your fine work in this area, Hon. Madam Acting President—and through our committee's work on wage theft, we know that her story is not a unique one. We know that somewhere between one-third and a quarter of workers, particularly international students, these most vulnerable of workers, are being exploited in Adelaide.

We also know, much to the disgrace of the Marshall government, that not much is being done about it. Indeed, less than nothing is being done about it because the very service that was actually intervening for these international students in particular, the Young Workers Legal Service, had its funding cut in the last year by SafeWork SA. Indeed, $150,000 to the Young Workers Legal Service went a long way to ensuring those international students, those young people on visas who have been made even more vulnerable than ever by the COVID pandemic, were able to get a fair day's wage for a fair day's work.

It is unacceptable that in South Australia, in Adelaide, we see a young woman like this not as an individual aberration but as an endemic statistic, and that we see the Marshall government look away from these young people. They are entrusted to our country by their families, believing we have a safe society for them to work in not just safely but with dignity and respect, and with a wage appropriate to their work. Yet, they have been abandoned by our government with the cuts to the Young Workers Legal Service and with the abrogation of the duties of SafeWork SA to act on these matters.

It was extraordinary to hear the Treasurer say today that SafeWork SA took some calls from my office yesterday; that was the case, but to say that was the first they heard of it was not what they told my staff member, that is for sure. However, for SafeWork SA to need a call from my office to act on wage theft and endemic exploitation of international students in Adelaide is a far cry from what most South Australians would expect from a fair government, and indeed what those families of the students and the students themselves should expect as fair and appropriate treatment when they work, live, study and play in our country.

We believe we are a welcoming society. We benefit from the export education sector, and we absolutely benefit from the diversity of cultures we enjoy as a result of having international students and new arrivals in our city. We should be supporting them to be able to access the full protections of the law. We know that language and cultural barriers stand in the way, and we also know that those barriers are exploited by the very criminals involved with wage theft.

Wage theft should be properly addressed. Ensuring we are taking wage theft seriously as a crime would be an incredibly important step in stopping the people who are exploiting these vulnerable young people in our state, and protecting them from further duress, harm and, in this case, physical injury.

I rise to speak about wage theft. Yesterday, Adelaide citizens were horrified to see an incident in Gouger Street in our city, when a young woman simply demanded a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. It is understood that she had been working trial shifts at a bubble tea shop called Fun Tea, but it was not so fun for her when she asked for her fair day's pay, to be slapped on the face and kicked in the stomach. She required ambulance attention and, indeed, hospital attention for simply asking for a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.

I have to commend this young woman for her courage and bravery. She stood up against something that is rife in the South Australian community, something that has rightly shocked the South Australian community: she stood up against wage theft. Unfortunately, through my work—and I know full well your fine work in this area, Hon. Madam Acting President—and through our committee's work on wage theft, we know that her story is not a unique one. We know that somewhere between one-third and a quarter of workers, particularly international students, these most vulnerable of workers, are being exploited in Adelaide.

We also know, much to the disgrace of the Marshall government, that not much is being done about it. Indeed, less than nothing is being done about it because the very service that was actually intervening for these international students in particular, the Young Workers Legal Service, had its funding cut in the last year by SafeWork SA. Indeed, $150,000 to the Young Workers Legal Service went a long way to ensuring those international students, those young people on visas who have been made even more vulnerable than ever by the COVID pandemic, were able to get a fair day's wage for a fair day's work.

It is unacceptable that in South Australia, in Adelaide, we see a young woman like this not as an individual aberration but as an endemic statistic, and that we see the Marshall government look away from these young people. They are entrusted to our country by their families, believing we have a safe society for them to work in not just safely but with dignity and respect, and with a wage appropriate to their work. Yet, they have been abandoned by our government with the cuts to the Young Workers Legal Service and with the abrogation of the duties of SafeWork SA to act on these matters.

It was extraordinary to hear the Treasurer say today that SafeWork SA took some calls from my office yesterday; that was the case, but to say that was the first they heard of it was not what they told my staff member, that is for sure. However, for SafeWork SA to need a call from my office to act on wage theft and endemic exploitation of international students in Adelaide is a far cry from what most South Australians would expect from a fair government, and indeed what those families of the students and the students themselves should expect as fair and appropriate treatment when they work, live, study and play in our country.

We believe we are a welcoming society. We benefit from the export education sector, and we absolutely benefit from the diversity of cultures we enjoy as a result of having international students and new arrivals in our city. We should be supporting them to be able to access the full protections of the law. We know that language and cultural barriers stand in the way, and we also know that those barriers are exploited by the very criminals involved with wage theft.

Wage theft should be properly addressed. Ensuring we are taking wage theft seriously as a crime would be an incredibly important step in stopping the people who are exploiting these vulnerable young people in our state, and protecting them from further duress, harm and, in this case, physical injury.

I rise to speak about wage theft. Yesterday, Adelaide citizens were horrified to see an incident in Gouger Street in our city, when a young woman simply demanded a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. It is understood that she had been working trial shifts at a bubble tea shop called Fun Tea, but it was not so fun for her when she asked for her fair day's pay, to be slapped on the face and kicked in the stomach. She required ambulance attention and, indeed, hospital attention for simply asking for a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.

I have to commend this young woman for her courage and bravery. She stood up against something that is rife in the South Australian community, something that has rightly shocked the South Australian community: she stood up against wage theft. Unfortunately, through my work—and I know full well your fine work in this area, Hon. Madam Acting President—and through our committee's work on wage theft, we know that her story is not a unique one. We know that somewhere between one-third and a quarter of workers, particularly international students, these most vulnerable of workers, are being exploited in Adelaide.

We also know, much to the disgrace of the Marshall government, that not much is being done about it. Indeed, less than nothing is being done about it because the very service that was actually intervening for these international students in particular, the Young Workers Legal Service, had its funding cut in the last year by SafeWork SA. Indeed, $150,000 to the Young Workers Legal Service went a long way to ensuring those international students, those young people on visas who have been made even more vulnerable than ever by the COVID pandemic, were able to get a fair day's wage for a fair day's work.

It is unacceptable that in South Australia, in Adelaide, we see a young woman like this not as an individual aberration but as an endemic statistic, and that we see the Marshall government look away from these young people. They are entrusted to our country by their families, believing we have a safe society for them to work in not just safely but with dignity and respect, and with a wage appropriate to their work. Yet, they have been abandoned by our government with the cuts to the Young Workers Legal Service and with the abrogation of the duties of SafeWork SA to act on these matters.

It was extraordinary to hear the Treasurer say today that SafeWork SA took some calls from my office yesterday; that was the case, but to say that was the first they heard of it was not what they told my staff member, that is for sure. However, for SafeWork SA to need a call from my office to act on wage theft and endemic exploitation of international students in Adelaide is a far cry from what most South Australians would expect from a fair government, and indeed what those families of the students and the students themselves should expect as fair and appropriate treatment when they work, live, study and play in our country.

We believe we are a welcoming society. We benefit from the export education sector, and we absolutely benefit from the diversity of cultures we enjoy as a result of having international students and new arrivals in our city. We should be supporting them to be able to access the full protections of the law. We know that language and cultural barriers stand in the way, and we also know that those barriers are exploited by the very criminals involved with wage theft.

Wage theft should be properly addressed. Ensuring we are taking wage theft seriously as a crime would be an incredibly important step in stopping the people who are exploiting these vulnerable young people in our state, and protecting them from further duress, harm and, in this case, physical injury.

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