BREAKING BYTE: Repercussions of the backpacker tax are beginning to byte in rural Victoria
One of Australia’s largest fruit growing regions is on the brink of a labour shortage at its most critical time during harvest. Australian taxpayers and voters can expect to pay more for pears, peaches and apples from Victoria’s Goulburn Valley unless local growers can find more workers and pickers.
Scott Cameron, from job agency MADEC, said about 40 per cent of jobs were yet to be filled and they are only one week away from picking season. “We’re starting to experience labour shortages already,” he said.
MADEC has a Federal Government contract to run the National Harvest Labour Information Service, which connects job seekers with harvest work opportunities. It has offices in most of the key horticulture growing regions across Australia. Northern Victoria’s fruit growing season began before Christmas but hits peak harvest at the beginning of February.
It’s a region the horticulture sector has been closely watching, with the industry regarding it as a test for the government’s backpacker tax reforms.
Mr Cameron fell short of blaming the tax changes on the labour shortage. “It’s really hard to measure or to tell the exact impact [from the backpacker tax changes],” he said. But some commentators (such as myself) are prepared to put the tax, and the delays around its introduction, forward and one of the root causes.
“It may have had some impact but these people were in Australia during this time anyway so it’s just very hard to tell at the moment.”
Mr Cameron said the region had struggled to recruit workers in previous years, but the 2016-17 shortage appeared to be at its most extreme in recent years. “We struggled to fill 100 per cent of vacancies last year as well,” he said. “We had about an 85 to 90 per cent fill rate but this year we’re lower again at this point in time.”
Do you think their will be a labour shortage in your area this picking season? Do you think the tax and debate around it are responsible? Have your say
Sourced by Chris Harrison