Fruit and vegetable pickers are said to be among the workers being abused in Australia Reuters

The state government of Victoria, Australia, is set to investigate allegations of widespread abuse of foreign workers.

The allegations of labour exploitation will be investigated after ABC television revealed foreigners were being treated like "slave labour" at farms and factories across the country.

The investigation will hinge on misuse of the country's 417 visa, which was designed to give 18-30-year-olds a working stay of up to a year in Australia.

The state government of Victoria is to push for a nationwide inquiry into what it described as a "national shame".

"No employee should ever be exploited, harassed or deprived of their basic liberties," said Natalie Hutchins, Victoria's minister for industrial relations.

"This is not just about the underpayment of wages; this is about creating an underclass of foreign workers," she said. "It's clear that Victoria needs a better system in place when it comes to regulating labour hire practices."

ABC reported that the biggest supermarket chains and fast food outlets in the country were dealing with poultry and vegetable farms that were exploiting staff.

It revealed evidence of staff being forced to work in cold conditions, having their pay withheld and not being allowed to go to the toilet or drink water.