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