Changes to visas welcome
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.”