The CEO of Tonga’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, Dr Fotu Fisi’iahi, has denied widespread reports about Tongan workers living in slum conditions in Tasmania.
According to the reports, which were carried by Kaniva news, about 77 Tongan seasonal workers were evacuated from a five bedroom house in Shearwater due to overcrowding and inadequate conditions.
Australian unions said the workers’ employer, Costa, had committed what amounted to human rights abuse.
Tongan workers in Tasmania told the ABC they wanted to warn people in the kingdom what they were getting themselves into by joining the Seasonal Workers’ Programme in Australia.
“We want them to know the truth. People just pay for the airfares and come over here because they don’t have the information they need,” the workers told the Australian national broadcaster.
Dr Fisi’iahi said if there had been any problems the Tongan workers would have reported them to Tonga’s representative in Tasmania.
“If the investigation you are talking about was true, the seasonal workers would have long complained about it,” Dr Fisi’iahi said in Tongan.
“The Tongan seasonal workers knew what was good and what was bad.
“We all know the journalists they can twist everything to make their news popular before correcting it.”
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However, he said he would raise the issue with the worker’s employer— at a meeting in Brisbane next month.
He claimed a Tongan representative, Sione Vaka, had investigated the situation and said the claims were not true. He described Vaka as reliable and said he was paid by the Tongan government.
He said Tonga was the only country that had a liaison officer in Tasmania.
Dr Fisi’iahi said Vaka denied all the workers involved were Tongans.
He did not respond when he was asked how many Tongan Seasonal Workers at Shearwater.
“Vaka reported there were three buildings in which the employees stayed. There was a five storey building in which females workers stayed and two other buildings for the male workers,” Dr Fisi’iahi said.
“There were bunk beds in the rooms which were divided into five.
“There was a problem between the council and the landlord over renovation to the buildings the landlord had not done.”
Dr Fisi’iahi said Vaka always visited and checked the accommodation of the Tongan seasonal workers in Tasmania.