AUSVEG, the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s 9000 vegetable and potato growers, is strongly opposed to any proposal to allow backpackers to extend their stays in Australia by working in seasonal tourism jobs, amid fears such a move would divert valuable labour resources from Australia’s vegetable and potato industries.
“Reports of a push to allow foreign working holidaymakers to qualify for a second year on their visas by engaging in seasonal tourism work are deeply concerning to Australian vegetable and potato growers,” said AUSVEG spokesperson Andrew MacDonald.
“The labour provided by backpackers to Australian vegetable and potato growing operations is invaluable, and any proposed change could dramatically affect growers’ ability to harvest their produce during peak season.”
“It is critical that the needs of Australian vegetable and potato growers are taken into account, and that any proposed changes to the current program do not adversely affect the industry.”
“Aussie growers are continuing to do it tough in the face of economic hardship, and taking away a vital chunk of labour, such as working-holiday makers, would be a kick in the teeth for this industry.”
AUSVE contends that Aussie growers’ reliance on the tens of thousands of backpackers working on farms and at packing facilities each year would definitely be threatened should the tourism industry win its bid to have visa eligibility criteria loosened to include tourism work.
“Given the importance of backpacker labour to our growers, current arrangements that allow working holidaymakers to extend their stays in Australia by undertaking work in agricultural operations should be maintained, if not expanded,” said Mr MacDonald.
In the lead-up to the release of the White Paper on developing northern Australia, AUSVEG hopes any recommendations regarding changes to the Working Holiday Visa program make it easier for travellers to engage in harvesting and farm work in rural areas.
“Labour shortages are an ongoing issue for growers across many parts of the country and AUSVEG supports any initiatives that provide Australian growers with a reliable workforce that allows them to get on with the job of feeding the nation.”
Posted 14 January 2015