ALP tar­gets back­packer farm labour

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

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.

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