Law students from the University of Queensland (UQ) are preparing to reveal their findings about whether the new Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme represents "slavery or salvation" for unskilled migrant workers.
Preliminary research by UQ's Human Trafficking Working Group (HTWG) has examined the background and operation of the recently introduced scheme, amid accusations it creates forced labour and opens the floodgates to unskilled migrants from around the world.
HTWG coordinator and TC Beirne School of Law Associate Professor Andreas Schloenhardt said the introduction of the scheme by the Australian Government marked an important policy shift.
"This is the first time an immigration category has been created for unskilled foreign workers and the [scheme] allows workers from selected Pacific Islands to work in the Australian horticulture industry," he said.
"While some critics liken the [scheme] to a modern form of slavery, others argue the scheme has the potential to eliminate the need to employ illegal workers and will prevent labour trafficking and migrant smuggling."
In a public lecture, to be held at 5pm on September 20 at the St Lucia campus, students will explore the past, present and future implications of unskilled labour migration to Queensland.
Student Matthew Cameron will be talking about the stormy history surrounding the immigration of unskilled workers into Queensland.
"Following the importation of workers from the Pacific islands in the late 1800s, often known as 'blackbirding', successive Australian Governments have repeatedly rejected calls to allow any form of unskilled labour immigration," he said.
"The continuing controversy over this issue has resulted in significant labour shortages."
Student Christopher Deitch will be looking at the implications of the ongoing unmet labour demand.
"Labour shortages are particularly evident in the horticulture industry in Queensland and Victoria. Jobs in these areas are often filled by working holiday makers or by illegal foreign workers, who often work in poor conditions and do not receive adequate pay and other benefits," he said.
Further information about the public lecture is available at www.law.uq.edu.au/humantrafficking