Back­packer knock-backs

Trav­ellers re­fused work and travel visas

Central and North Rural Weekly - - AGRICULTURAL LABOUR - Natalie Kot­sios news@ru­ral­

ABOUT 8000 would-be back­pack­ers were knocked back from trav­el­ling and work­ing in Aus­tralia last year, ac­cord­ing to new fig­ures.

And the over­all num­ber of work­ing hol­i­day-mak­ers has con­tin­ued to de­cline, with just 210,456 visa ap­pli­ca­tions granted in 2017-18, com­pared with 211,011 the pre­vi­ous year.

But that fig­ure could have been a lot higher.

Depart­ment of Home Af­fairs fig­ures show 218,441 ap­pli­ca­tions for 417 and 462 visas were lodged last fi­nan­cial year, up about 4000 from the pre­vi­ous year.

It has prompted farm­ers – who rely on back­pack­ers for labour – to re­new calls for a ded­i­cated agri­cul­ture visa to ad­dress work­force short­ages across the sec­tor.

Back­packer num­bers have dropped over the past five years with fewer ap­pli­ca­tions com­ing from the 417 visa class, which cov­ers the UK, Tai­wan, Hong Kong and many Euro­pean coun­tries.

There were 155,162 first-year 417 visa ap­pli­ca­tions last year – down from 159,444 the year be­fore – with 152,622 granted.

Sec­ond-year 417 visa ap­pli­ca­tions – which back­pack­ers can ap­ply for if they com­plete three months’ re­gional work – in­creased to 38,076, but 5248 were re­jected.

The depart­ment’s work­ing hol­i­day-maker re­port said the re­duced grant num­bers could be in­flu­enced by “chang­ing eco­nomic con­di­tions and sea­sonal vari­abil­ity in visa ap­pli­ca­tion num­bers in part­ner coun­tries”.

Ap­pli­ca­tions are also of­ten re­fused if the forms have not bee filled in cor­rectly, or if

❝These guys come into the re­gions, they then spend that money tour­ing around Aus­tralia, so it’s ac­tu­ally a loss for the Aus­tralian econ­omy. — Ta­nia Chap­man, Voice of Hor­ti­cul­ture chair­per­son

ap­pli­cants don’t meet all re­quired checks.

There were 25,203 ap­pli­ca­tions for 462 visas, which cover hol­i­day-mak­ers from coun­tries in­clud­ing the US and China — with 25,006 ap­proved.

Vic­to­rian Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion hor­ti­cul­ture pres­i­dent Emma Ger­mano said the fig­ures showed why a ded­i­cated agri­cul­ture visa was needed.

“Even when (the num­ber of work­ing hol­i­day-mak­ers) is at its peak, it’s not enough to fill our work short­ages,” Ms Ger­mano said.

“The farm­ing sec­tor has con­sis­tently said it is not enough to help with our har­vests.

“We still don’t see it as the most pro­duc­tive way to fill our needs.”

Voice of Hor­ti­cul­ture chair Ta­nia Chap­man said the de­crease hit all of re­gional Aus­tralia.

“These guys come into the re­gions, they then spend that money tour­ing around Aus­tralia, so it’s ac­tu­ally a loss for the Aus­tralian econ­omy,” she said.

An agri­cul­ture-spe­cific visa is be­ing con­sid­ered as part of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s visa sys­tem re­forms.


WORK­ING HOL­I­DAY: Re­duced work visas for back­pack­ers can im­pact re­gional economies.

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