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News News Exploitation of skilled migrants exposed
Conditions in remote Australian workplaces, where two foreigners died within three days in June, are so harsh that a leading immigration expert says they are "akin to slavery".

A Herald investigation has exposed blatant breaches of the 457 skilled visa scheme and uncovered hidden details of the deaths of the two workers in the Northern Territory and Queensland, and of a third north of Perth.

The investigation highlights disturbing exploitation of overseas workers, too afraid to speak out, under a scheme that allows employers to sponsor thousands of foreigners to come into Australia and do jobs locals cannot or will not do. It reveals the "extremely ugly face" of the 457 visa system, according to the immigration expert Professor Bob Birrell, from Monash University.

The Herald has found that a university-trained Filipino farm supervisor, Pedro Balading, was thrown off the back of a Toyota utility and killed on a Gulf of Carpentaria cattle station in the Northern Territory. A witness, who was on the back of the ute, says it was being driven very fast on a rough road.

Mr Balading, 35, left behind a wife and three young children. His wife says that in the months before his death he complained repeatedly that his working conditions were much tougher than he had been told to expect, and he was forced to do menial work such as fencing, in breach of his skilled visa.

Two days earlier, a logger from Inner Mongolia, China, 33-year-old Guo Jian Dong, died in a remote state forest 700 kilometres west of Brisbane when a tree he was felling brushed a dead tree which then fell and crushed him. Although the visas only allow foreign workers into Australia to do jobs for which they are skilled, Jack Watson, the man who trained Mr Guo, says he had never used a chainsaw before he arrived in Queensland. Mr Guo left behind a wife, and a child he had never met.

Others who work for N.K. Collins, the company that employed Mr Guo, are still living in western Queensland, including three who live in a caravan in a timber mill next to the Mitchell town dump, speak no English, and push a wheelbarrow nearly three kilometres to town to buy food.

The company will not say where many of its other Chinese employees live, nor reveal the address of the deceased man's wife or allow employees to talk openly of the accident that killed him.

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