ALP targets backpacker farm labour
LABOR could spark a preelection war with farmers over a union proposal to dismantle working holiday visas, which farmers say threatens to cripple the agriculture sector.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions is using its influence to pressure Bill Shorten to review the scheme with a view to ban backpackers working for a second year and put further restrictions on work in the first year.
Opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann refused to rule out backing the proposal and said the number of temporary visa holders in Australia with work rights was “too high”.
The National Farmers’ Federation said the demands were “ill-considered, ill-conceived and smack of ‘dog-whistle’ politics”, and warned politicians against acting on it.
“The entire sector would mobilise to voice its outrage and despair if the program was to be scrapped without adopting realistic alternatives. The response to the ‘backpacker tax’ issue would pale in comparison,” NFF workplace relations general manager Ben Rogers said.
In a submission to a Senate inquiry, the ACTU called for a review of the scheme, pushing for the Government to cap the number of visas handed out, ban job ads that advertise only for working holiday visa holders and abandon the second year of the program.
Mr Rogers said farmers relied heavily on backpackers.