Harold William Jackson, a businessman from Tasmania, was fined $71,910 in the Federal Circuit Court for exploiting young backpackers and paying them as little as $1.35 an hour after luring them with bogus claims in job advertisements. Jackson lured backpackers in their 20s to a remote town and exploited them before sacking and leaving them stranded.
Jackson used to own and run a hardware store as well as an adjacent café and a bakery in Queenstown. It was alleged that the businessman exploited and underpaid the young backpackers who travelled on 417 working holiday visas. He posted tempting advertisements for hospitality jobs on Gumtree’s website and also at backpacker’s hostels. The ads claimed that the 88-day paid work sign-off was available for the first year, the ABC reported. However, he never signed-off on the 88-day requirement and sacked the travellers, leaving them out of money and stranded in Queenstown.
The Tasmanian businessman was previously ordered to repay unpaid wages, which amounted to more than $40,000 to backpackers Graeme Alexander Fraser, Madoka Makino, Vanessa Mancini, Tomoyuki Watari, and Keelin Elmhirst, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Jackson’s conduct with the young backpackers was described as “callous” and calculated by Judge Terry McGuire, who found that the backpackers were provided with only a basic accommodation on reaching West Coast and made to endure hard labour. The court also heard that Jackson even yelled and berated the backpackers who worked for him frequently.
The practice was carried on by Jackson between July 2013 and February 2014.
“Significantly, the evidence before me of the advertisements placed by the respondent from 2012 is indicative of a course of conduct involving workers other than these complainants,” Judge McGuire said. “It is often construed that employers rue the reluctance of young Australians to take on seasonal or similar work. I comment only that such young locals might well be aware of their basic rights and the obligations of employers when considering employment and [Jackson’s] tendency to advertise in backpacker hostels was calculated accordingly.”
He added, “The employees were vulnerable and such vulnerability was compounded by their isolated circumstances and the deliberate and at times callous nature of the respondent’s behaviour.”