Changes to visas wel­come

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS -

LO­CAL fruit­grow­ers de­scribe new rules for back­packer and Pa­cific Islander worker pro­grams as a step in the right di­rec­tion.

The changes, an­nounced by Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son this week, al­low back­pack­ers and work­ing holiday-mak­ers to stay in Aus­tralia longer and move around more freely.

Back­pack­ers will no longer have to leave jobs every six months and can work for one em­ployer for up to a year.

If they work in a re­gional ar­eas like Tas­ma­nia for a pe­riod of six months in their sec­ond year, back­pack­ers will also be el­i­gi­ble to ex­tend their work­ing visas for an ex­tra year.

Pa­cific Is­landers taking up sea­sonal work will be able to stay for nine months in­stead of the pre­vi­ous six.The max­i­mum age for work­ing holiday visas for some coun­tries will be lifted from 30 to 35.

Fruit Grow­ers Tas­ma­nia pres­i­dent Nic Hansen wel­comed the changes, say­ing they would help grow­ers find and re­tain good work­ers.

“Al­low­ing work­ers to stay longer than six months will be a real ben­e­fit, es­pe­cially for the berry grow­ers whose har­vest sea­sons goes for longer than six months.”

Mr Hansen said al­low­ing work­ers to stay with the same em­ployer longer was pos­i­tive.

“What that will do is help us re­tain the re­ally good work­ers who we may want to keep on to help with pruning and things like that,” he said.

Mr Hansen said al­low­ing back­pack­ers in re­gional ar­eas to ex­tend their visas would also help fill worker short­ages.

“That will work well be­cause it gives them a rea­son to stay and work for six months. It in­cen­tivises peo­ple and that’s what we need to do. ”

While Mr Hansen would still like to see progress on an agri­cul­tural visa sys­tem, he said this week’s changes were a good in­terim mea­sure.

While the changes are not likely to have a big im­pact this sea­son, he said they should make a dif­fer­ence in the fu­ture.

With the Tas­ma­nian cherry and berry har­vest due to start soon, Mr Hansen said in­quiries about work had been up so far..

“Based on that I’m not an­tic­i­pat­ing that we’ll see a short­age this year.”

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