Australia to relax working holiday visas for backpackers and Pacific Islanders
Australian immigration and asylum Australia to relax working holiday visas for backpackers and Pacific Islanders
Government to reduce restrictions to ease farm jobs shortage
Backpackers and other visitors on working holidays will be able to stay in Australia longer under a federal government plan to help farmers fill job shortages.
Pacific Islanders taking up seasonal work will be able to stay three months longer and the age limit for working holiday visas for some countries will be lifted to 35.
Backpackers will no longer need to leave jobs every six months and will be able to triple the length of their stay if they do extra agricultural work.Death in the sun: Australia's 88-day law leaves backpackers exploited and exposed Read more
The changes come after the Nationals failed to deliver a promised agricultural visa and Scott Morrisonâs attempt to force unemployed benefits recipients to pick fruit was dismissed by the industry.
The prime minister was due to announce the changes at a strawberry farm in south-east Queensland on Monday.
âAustralians filling Australian jobs is my number one priority, but when this isnât possible we need to ensure our farmers arenât left high and dry with rotting crops, especially in the strawberry industry,â he told the Courier Mail.
The Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh was sceptical about what he described as a âshort-sightedâ announcement.
A report published last week found backpackers in Australia, about a third of whom are paid less than $12 an hour, are owed billion dollars in unpaid wages.
âThe government needs to be very clear about how itâs going to deal with those abuses and how itâs going to create more opportunities for Australians to work in agricultural work,â Leigh told Sky News.
The deputy prime minister and Nationals leader, Michael McCormack, denied the changes were an admission his partyâs push for an agricultural visa was dead in the water.
âIt was always going to be difficult to get a specific ag visa in time for this harvest but we are working towards making sure there are more permanent arrangements in place,â McCormack said. âAt the end of the day, what needed to happen was we needed to have the workers on the ground to pick the fruit and pick the crops.
âWe will make sure good workers can come ag ain. Thatâs all farmers want.â
A rule that forced some backpackers to work in northern Australia is also being dumped. They will instead be allowed to work in a far wider range of regions throughout the country.
Australiaâs agricultural sector has almost doubled in value into a $63.4bn industry over the past decade.
Some 419,000 backpackers visited Australia last year, spending 1.4 million nights in regional areas where they spent $920m.
âEvery dollar they earn here, they spend here, thatâs the whole point,â Morrison said.Topics
- Australian immigration and asylum
- South Pacific
- Rural Australia
- Australian politics
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