Federal Minister shortchanges industry on staffing

The Australian Banana Growers’ Council is calling on the Australian Government to rethink an announcement made by Minister Alex Hawke last week that changed the rules for backpackers. 

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke changed the rules for those backpackers seeking to extend their Working Holiday Maker visa to second and third years, allowing them to complete their 88 days work not just on farm but also now in the tourism and hospitality sectors across northern and remote Australia.

ABGC Deputy Chair Leon Collins noted that this was likely to mean even less access to staff for banana growers than the critically short situation now.

“The Australian Government needs to review and overturn the Minister’s decision immediately” he said.

“On top of that, the fact that there was no consultation with the National Farmers Federation or any representative of the agriculture sector, suggests that little thought has been given to the ongoing implication of this decision.

“Agriculture is continuously touted as critical to surviving this pandemic and our economic recovery. Right now, it’s hard to see this reflected in any solid policy.

“There are ongoing challenges in recruiting staff for the banana industry, which is largely based in Far North Queensland, as a result of the COVID pandemic and travel restrictions.”

The ABGC is also calling for effective industry consultation and greater transparency in policy making on this long running visa program and related matters.