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Community & Business

21 July, 2021

Changes to working holiday visas leave farmers high and dry

LOCAL farmers and their produce have been left high and dry after a recent change to Working Holiday Maker Visas forces them to fight over the already depleted holiday worker force.

By Rhys Thomas

FNQ Growers President Joe Moro is concerned about the recent change to the Working Holiday Maker Visas.

LOCAL farmers and their produce have been left high and dry after a recent change to Working Holiday Maker Visas forces them to fight over the already depleted holiday worker force.

The Australian Government made a quiet change to the eligibility rules surrounding the visas in recent weeks, allowing holiday workers in regional areas to work in either tourism or hospitality sectors as an alternative to horticulture. 

This decision was made without any prior consultation with the horticulture industry who will feel the negative effects of this change the most. 

FNQ Growers president Joe Moro described the recent change as a “slap in the face” and is concerned about the effects it will have on farmers securing workers. 

“The horticulture industry was not consulted about this change so there is a lot of uproar about that,” he said.

“The timing of it is really shocking we don’t have a lot of working holiday visas in Australia at the moment… there is only about 100,000 out of 300,000 that are in Australia normally.

“Why would you want to go and do a rough and tough job, when you can get a nice job in the tourism industry? 

“It’s not that we begrudge the tourism industry I know they are having their problems but the whole idea of the working holiday visas was to get them out to do the 88 days in regional areas.” 

Under the new changes Cairns has been identified as a regional area, meaning that backpackers can work in the massive tourism hub without traveling to work in areas on the Tablelands. 

After the Federal Government recently announced intentions to deliver a Seasonal Agricultural Visa, FNQ Growers wrote to the Federal Agriculture Minister urging the Government to include the Working Holiday Visa Program in a multi-prong approach to solve seasonal labour shortages. 

A spokesman from the Department of Home Affairs has stated that the committee who recommended the change to the holiday visas “consulted widely.” 

“These changes to specified work settings for tourism and hospitality address recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration (JSCM) Inquiry into the WHM program,” they said. 

“The Committee consulted widely, considered 89 written submissions and over 1,000 emails from stakeholders and individuals across industry sectors and from around Australia and conducted 12 hearings attended by 87 witnesses. 

“Submissions were received from a range of agricultural industry bodies, associations and representatives including the National Farmers’ Federation and Growcom.”


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