6 December, 2022
New trade bill takes workers out of region
WORKERS travelling across the pond from the United Kingdom will no longer need to spend 88 days working in regional areas after the Federal Government passed the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement Implementation Bill recently and removed an important labour requirement.
The bill was virtually signed in September 2021 and was passed by the Australian Parliament on Monday 21 November but is yet to be signed the UK Parliament and implemented.
Kennedy MP Bob Katter is worried without the “backpacker clause” included, crucial workers will be drawn out of regional areas.
If passed, the bill would allow people from the UK and Australia to freely work in each other’s countries without needing a working holiday visa, which requires them to spend time working in regional Australian towns.
Mr Katter said without this requirement there would be little to no incentive for backpackers to work in regional communities.
“What you've done here is effectively take out the United Kingdom workers completely,” he said.
“They vanish because there's no way they're going to go to a place they've never heard of before in their life, when they can go to Sydney and hang around on Bondi Beach.”
This is another blow to regional workforces after changes were made to the working holiday maker visa in 2021 that allowed workers do the required 88 days in hospitality and tourism industries in cities like Cairns which negatively affected areas like Mareeba and Atherton.
With UK workers no longer needing a working holiday visa, FNQ Growers president Joe Moro is concerned even more workers will be taken from rural farms.
“UK workers will no longer have an obligation to work in a rural area to get an extension of their visas which means we are going to get a lot less UK backpackers coming through to work in rural areas,” he said.
“We are losing a valuable work resource, the seasonal workers have taken up a lot of the slack but at the same time there still a need for a large number of backpackers to be working in regional Australia.
“Currently they don’t have to come to Mareeba to do their 88 days, they can go to Cairns.”
The bill is yet to be passed by the UK Parliament and will not come into effect until then