Peter and Moya Buckley have been hit with a $73,000 penalty following an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman which found that their business had underpaid two Taiwanese backpackers, in Australia on 417 working holiday visas.

The Buckleys formerly operated the Java Spice Caf Emporium on Mitchell Street in Darwin, and earlier this year the pair were ordered to reimburse its former employees $5,805 and $1,605 respectively, but the Court Order was not complied with.

“In my view, backpackers and the like are particularly susceptible to being exploited by unscrupulous operators in the hospitality industry,” Judge Stewart Brown said when imposing the $73,000 penalty.

“The Court has a responsibility to set penalties which will deter others from engaging in conduct which may tarnish Australia’s reputation as a satisfactory place for visitors and tourists to undertake a working holiday.”

Judge Brown said employers in the hospitality industry need to know that they cannot exploit backpackers and expect to get away with it.

“In all these circumstances, in my view, the Court needs to send a strong message to the general employer community that such conduct will be subject to significant penalty,” he said.

The Court found that Java Spice showed a “lack of co-operation” and “disregard” for the Fair Work Ombudsman, hadn’t followed the directions or advice of the agency in the past, neglected to show remorse and failed to participate in the Court proceedings.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the legal action followed four previous complaints against the caf which resulted in underpayments being rectified and the Buckleys being educated about the need to comply with their workplace obligations.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is currently conducting a national review of the wages and conditions of overseas workers in Australia on the 417 working holiday visa.

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