Work­ers in the wings

Whitsunday Times - - YOUR SAY -

TO KEITH Roberts, it’s as sim­ple as killing two birds with one stone.

Al­low work­ing hol­i­day mak­ers to earn the sec­ond year on their visa by clean­ing up in the af­ter­math of Cy­clone Deb­bie, and in re­turn, have more hands on deck to get Whit­sun­days back to nor­mal.

“Air­lie Beach, as you know, re­lies heav­ily on the back­packer mar­ket and the com­mu­nity,” he said.

“The rea­son why it makes so much sense is tens of thou­sands of houses would love to have a back­packer clean­ing up,” he said.

Mr Roberts said it was a per­fect so­lu­tion as back­pack­ers were not “spooked” by dirt, ad­ven­ture or bro­ken trees.

“They’re only given one year and have to work in re­gional ar­eas pick­ing fruit and do­ing jobs other Aussies don’t want to do,” he said.

“They have to work for 90 days to qual­ify for their sec­ond year (of their visa) and if we can get any­thing with Cy­clone Deb­bie to sign off as a qual­i­fi­ca­tion for a sec­ond year then all (the back­pack­ers) who are flock­ing south, will flock north.”

The owner of Whit­sun­day Cata­ma­rans said he spoke to at least 20 pas­sen­gers go­ing out on the wa­ter and posed the ques­tion: if they could clean up and by do­ing so qual­ify for their sec­ond year, would they still go south?

The over­whelm­ing re­sponse was “no”.

Mr Roberts said there needed to be a way to dis­trib­ute work­ers to ar­eas which needed the most help.

“Ev­ery­one who comes here has to ap­ply for a work­ing hol­i­day visa, they pay a fee, then they come and they’re al­lowed to stay one year and work in Aus­tralia and pay a back­packer tax which is 19 cents to the dol­lar,” he said.

Mem­ber for Daw­son, Ge­orge Chris­tensen said the idea had “merit” but the process wasn’t as sim­ple as peo­ple thought.

“If (the idea) re­quires leg­is­la­tion, it’s just not go­ing to hap­pen (be­cause) the Par­lia­ment isn’t go­ing to re­sume un­til mid-May,” he said.

Mr Chris­tensen said he had made the Min­is­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion Peter Dut­ton aware of the re­quest and was await­ing his re­sponse.

PHOTO: PETER CARRUTHERS

’PER­FECT SO­LU­TION’: Young campers de­scend on the Air­lie Beach fore­shore while ac­com­mo­da­tion houses re­mained closed.

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