Saiful Hasam, a reporter with Utusan Malaysia, gave evidence to a modern slavery inquiry last month, speaking of the "thousand sad stories" he heard during his two weeks at a fruit farm in Swan Hill, in northern Victoria.
Fruit pickers, often working illegally, were lured to Australia with promises of high incomes, Hasam said. When they arrived, they were paid a pittance, kept in overcrowded homes with exorbitant rent and effectively trapped in debt bondage.
Hasam warned the inquiry the exploitation was still occurring on a significant scale.
Hasam arrived in Australia last year, posing as a fruit picker who was prepared to work illegally.
He was paid $110 for 24 hours work over four days. About $80 went to pay rent in a small home he shared with 11 other workers, mostly from Malaysia. He was short-changed $10 by his contractor, leaving him with just $20.
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