From its foundation in 1919, the International Labour Organisations (ILO) guiding principle has been that labour is not a commodity. Following an examination of the origins and impact of this principle on ILO and United Nations (UN) conventions relating to migrant workers, the paper examines how Australia has responded to such conventions. In this regard, the paper highlights the counterveiling influence of the neoclassical economic perspective on the way migrant workers in Australia have been treated and represented from the post-war period until recent times as either ‘factory fodder’ and/or ‘business assets’. Both representations, we argue, treat migrants as commodities. To challenge this approach the paper identifies how migrant workers have distinguished themselves from commodities through resistance to poor working conditions and also management strategies that treat them as if they were commodities.