Queensland's Labour Hire Licensing Compliance Unit has successfully prosecuted North Farming Pty Ltd and Ranjit Singh as Trustee for the Farming First Trust, for breaches of the Labour Hire Licensing Act 2017 (Qld).
The separate matters included the first successful prosecutions where the requirement to be licensed under the state’s labour hire laws was knowingly and deliberately avoided, by disguising the fact the labour hire provider was not licensed and misleading farmers into believing the arrangements were legitimate.
The matters were heard in the Mareeba and Atherton Magistrates Courts, 31 July and 1 August 2023. North Farming and Ranjit Singh had convictions recorded and were fined $300,000 and $60,000 respectively. Further, the magistrate ordered Ranjit Singh to pay the fine within a six-month period and stipulated that failure to meet that instruction could result in six months’ imprisonment.
The prosecutions showed neither North Farming nor Ranjit Singh held a licence when they supplied fruit-pickers and labourers to fruit farms in North Queensland. Further, they provided labour hire services without having a workers' compensation policy in place.
The court heard the two avoidance offences were particularly egregious as North Farming misled and presented as a licensed labour hire provider in order to deliberately avoid the operation of the Act.
In sentencing, the magistrate acknowledged both defendants’ open and willful disregard for Queensland’s labour hire licensing and workers' compensation laws.
The courts noted the behaviour of both parties as being 'deliberate' and that the offending shows a disregard for the labour hire laws and other statutes designed to protect vulnerable workers.
The magistrate also noted the fines imposed reflected the need for deterrence as this type of offence has a high prevalence in North Queensland and can impact the reputation of legitimate labour hire providers as well as the entire agriculture industry.
Three further matters relating to these cases were mentioned in Mareeba Magistrates Court in September.
The Labour Hire Licencing Compliance Unit is responsible for regulating and ensuring compliance with Queensland's licensing scheme. It is a Queensland Government regulatory entity under the Office of Industrial Relations.
Since the scheme commenced in April 2018, there have been 23 successful prosecutions for unlawful labour hire licence-related practices with penalties imposed totalling $1,685,000.
Read more about Queensland's labour hire licensing scheme.
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