All posts by Mike Barrow

Mike arrived in Sydney in 1989 as a typical British backpacker with $17 and one phone number. He also decided Sydney was paradise living in a three bedroom unit with 17 other backpackers. He eventually managed to get a proper job in a small backpacking publishing company. After spending four years trying to get residency, Mike finally 'got in' and set up his own company, Travel Maps Australia in 1993. In 2000 the Company rebranded to THE WORD and in 2014 started The Byte. Mike lives in Sydney's northern beaches, keeps fit and healthy and wouldn't live anywhere else.

Labour Hire now licensed in Queensland – tell backpackers NOW!

Labour hire licensing laws have recently been introduced in Queensland, meaning that any Labour Hire companies (often know as contractors) must be licensed to operate in Queensland. So if you are offered a job in Queensland with a contractor you can either ask for a copy of their Labour Hire License, or check on-line to see if they are licensed – 

The Labour Hire Licensing Compliance Unit works in partnership with other agencies to protect labour hire workers from being: treated unfairly; underpaid; stopped from taking leave or adequate breaks from work; given unsatisfactory equipment to do their job; made to work in unsatisfactory health and safety conditions; housed in sub-standard accommodation; transported in unsafe vehicles; threatened; bullied or subjected to violence or intimidation. 

If you have concerns or information about mistreatment by contractors operating in Queensland without a licence or a business using an unlicensed labour hire provider, you can: 

Report the problem through the online Report a problem form. 

Call 1300 576 088 from within Australia, to report your problem in confidence. 

Report a problem by making an anonymous report. 

Operating hours are 9.00am – 4.30pm, Monday-Friday except public holidays. 

International callers can report a problem on +617 3874 2280. 

Labour Hire Licensing is being introduced in Victoria and is expected to be up and running by mid-2019. 


Source: NHLIS newsletter

Sourced by Mike Barrow

Is Cradle Mountain suffering from over tourism?

Howard Smith runs a tour operation at Cradle Mountain and should be happy that tourism in Tasmania is booming.

But the prospect of more visitors to Cradle Mountain is keeping him up at night.

Visitor numbers are surging, with 1.26 million people coming from far and wide to visit the island state last year.

Some local operators on Cradle Mountain are worried that the boom could be too much of a good thing.

Rapidly growing visitor numbers — from 200,000 in 2014, to 250,000 in 2017 — has prompted Parks and Wildlife Service to ban private vehicle access to Dove Lake during peak periods, to ease congestion and improve road safety.

Mr Smith fears the mountain could be “loved to death.”

“What we have is a brand, part of that is a unique experience, isolation, rugged wilderness,” he told the ABC.

“If you have people stepping on each other’s toes because there are hundreds of thousands of visitors, you put that at risk.

“Yes I am worried we are loving Cradle to death.”

Mr Smith said Tasmania risked losing what made it “so special”.

“We need to put a cap on the numbers of visitors to our iconic spots, including Cradle and Freycinet,” Mr Smith said.

Those concerns are echoed by fellow tour operator Anthony O’Hern, who runs Cradle Mountain Canyons.

“What we have is a philosophical dilemma; do we focus on bringing in more and more visitors or shift our attention to what you might call high-value visitors, who spend more time on the mountain and have less of an impact as they go to areas less travelled?

“I think a cap should be considered, but then you would have to apply that to Tasmanians too and I don’t see that being popular.”

At peak times, like the Easter long weekend, there is a steady stream of people heading in both directions around Dove Lake; last Easter some were even attempting to push prams.

Tourists are able to stand on Glacier Rock and take in the view, but it can become overcrowded and precarious to visit.

The state and commonwealth governments have committed about $86m to overhaul the Cradle Mountain facilities.

Part of the redevelopment includes a new viewing shelter at Dove Lake, an amenities building, bus shelter, parking and a viewing platform near Glacier Rock.

Mr Smith welcomed the plan but said new toilets and a viewing platform would not limit the impact of tens — or perhaps hundreds — of thousands more visitors.

“We can’t lose sight of what makes Tasmania what it is, part of that are moments where you can have isolation. Do we want to lose that?” he said.

No need for cap: Hodgman

Premier Will Hodgman said restrictions on the number of tourists entering Tasmania would “hurt” the state.

“If we send a message to the rest of the world that we no longer want tourists here they’ll get it, and that will damage and hurt Tasmanian businesses right across the state, it’ll cost jobs, we want to see growth in our tourism industry continue,” the Premier said.

“When you look at our rate of growth it’s strong but sustainable. Two per cent over the last year has brought a lot of visitors to our state but it is manageable.”

Peter McDermott, who manages McDermott’s Buses on the mountain, welcomed the growing visitor numbers and shot down the notion of a cap on visitors.

“I don’t believe there should be any cap”, he said.

“We shouldn’t restrict what is good for the state. We should keep our eyes on the bigger picture.”

Former Greens leader Bob Brown is backing calls for a cap.

Dr Brown said the park could be attracting half a million visitors by 2050 and there needs to be a cap, but with an exemption for Tasmanians.

“I think that MONA [the Museum of Old and New Art] has got the right idea here where they are charging visitors a fee, but not Tasmanians and I think some priority needs to be given to Tasmanians,” he said.

Interesting times ahead for Tassie.

Source: ABC

Sourced by Mike Barrow

Farmers want AG Visa but what about the WHV?

Fruit and vegetable growers say a lack of workers is keeping a lid on industry growth and leaving hundreds of tonnes of fruit at risk of being left on the ground every year.

Many are hoping a promised ‘agricultural visa’ for foreign farm workers will solve industry labour woes by allowing farms to hire a dedicated overseas workforce on a temporary basis.

In late August the National Party promised the visa would be delivered in “days, not weeks”, forcing senior Liberals to put the plan on ice saying it would cause diplomatic problems with governments in the Pacific.

The industry already has access to an existing scheme, the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP), designed to allow farmers to bring workers in from the Pacific and Timor Leste.

Leaders in those countries fear a new ‘ag visa’ would stifle opportunities for their people if farmers were to move away from the SWP.

What does the new visa promise in comparison?

Figures from the Department of Jobs and Small Business show 6,166 workers entered Australia on the SWP in 2016/17, and 4,402 had entered between July 2017 and January 2018.

But for Northern Territory farmer Ian Quinn, that scheme was too rigid and inflexible for the often unpredictable nature of harvest time.

“Anything would be better than a Seasonal Workers Program. Anything,” he said.

Farmers hope the new ‘ag visa’ would be flexible enough to allow workers to return year-on-year, for say three to five years, before renewal was needed.

Mr Quinn has more than 35,000 mango trees, all of which need to be harvested between August and November.

During that period his staff goes from seven to, ideally, 70 people.

“We are never going to get labour security with an Australian workforce because there is no attraction for young people, there is no career path picking seasonal fruit,” Mr Quinn said.

Seasonal Worker Program inflexible

Farmers say many of the existing programs for hiring backpackers and overseas workers are too rigid and bureaucratic.

Despite being successful for Mr Quinn in securing workers from Timor Leste through the SWP, he said there were very real administrative problems with that program.

“You get knockbacks for trivial things like [using] portable toilets, they [the department who oversees the applications] wouldn’t accept that for the packing season.

“Even when we were successful we didn’t know we were going to get our staff until three weeks before we needed them.”

The laborious application process was just one of the faults farmers reported about the Seasonal Worker Program.

“So we may as well employ backpackers then,” Mr Quinn said.

The SWP also has strict rules around the dates workers can work.

Claims ag visa would provide needed flexibility

There are concerns that the introduction of an ag visa would cease opportunities for the Pacific nations part of the existing SWP.

“We currently have return workers from Timor Leste on our farm and we would certainly still want them back, otherwise we’ve wasted three years training them,” Mr Quinn said.

“We would bring them back, say, for two months after the harvest for pruning.

“Last year we tried to keep [some of the seasonal workers] on for a given period to do pruning … but we couldn’t, so we ended up pruning at the wrong time of the year while we still had them and it has cost us in poor fruit and broken branches.

“We would like to send them home for a couple of months, freshen them up and get them back at the right time.”

Calls for caution in dismantling SWP

Not everyone is convinced a new visa will be a panacea for the industry’s labour woes, suggesting the SWP could be amended.

Citrus Australia CEO Ben Cant said he feared the Government had not consulted with industry enough.

“I’m concerned that what’s transpiring is short-term politics … coming up with a quick win for politics to demonstrate they’re satisfying growers’ needs,” Mr Cant said.

Australian National University’s director of the Development Policy Centre, Stephen Howes, said he believed the existing options for farmers could be made more flexible, and a new visa was not needed.

“The idea that we now need a new visa to bring in skilled labour doesn’t make much sense because we already have the 457 temporary skilled visa”

“We already have a number of visas, so what is the gap that a new visa is meant to fill? That is as unclear now as when the issue first arose.”

Ag visa ‘would allow expansion’

With pressure on Australian farmers to increase their productivity to feed the world’s growing population, some say an agriculture visa is needed now more than ever.

“An ag visa would allow us to expand with confidence because we’ve got the infrastructure here, we’ve got the land, and many farmers around Australia — not just in the tropics — would be able to expand,” Mr Quinn said.

“If we know we’re going to have 40 people on such-and-such a day, or 60, or 100 people on such-and-such a day, who can come back and work on limited supervision, we can make plans and get things done.

ED: With the introduction of an ag visa, what will happen to the WHV second year pickers trying to obtain their 88 days?

Have your say!

Source: ABC

Sourced and edited: Mike Barrow

Have you seen this man?

‘I am vanishing … no tears’:

The last words a Swedish teenager ever said to his father have convinced him his son is still alive, more than a decade after he vanished.

Max Vidar Castor, 19, was on the trip of a lifetime, travelling across Australia with two friends in 2005, until he was last seen en route to Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.

A chilling letter sent to his father, Rolf, along with his passport and return plane ticket is the last correspondence Max had with his family.

But despite the letter, in which Max farewells his father, Rolf still believes his son is alive and well.

Swedish backpacker Max Vidar Castor was last seen in regional Victoria in 2005

Max paid $250 to send a package consisting of his passport, return flight ticket and a chilling letter to his father, which read: ‘Now I am vanishing… no tears’

‘Something strange has happened to me and I don’t know how to cope with it,’ Max’s note reads.

‘I am tired of myself but there is still so much beauty in the world. Now I am vanishing … no tears.’

‘I believe he has found some type of other community and could be living off the land, maybe even with a wife and kid… I wouldn’t be the least bit astonished.’

He believes Max has started a life for himself on the Far North Coast, a region close to the ocean in New South Wales, because his fellow travellers told him his son was attracted to the easygoing lifestyle there.

Max was backpacking to Victoria’s Great Ocean Road when he was last seen

Max’s father, Rolf, has come to terms with the fact he may never see his son again but still holds out hope that he is alive and well

More than 100 possible sightings of Max have been made all over Australia.

He was last seen at the local store in Wye River in far-southwest Victoria in 2005.

He told the shopkeeper he was planning on heading north, and has since reportedly been sighted across regional Victoria and NSW.

Source: Daily Mail

Sourced by Mike Barrow

88 days spoiled by a few bad farmers

Six months into her holiday, French backpacker Ludmilla Cek posted an online ad looking for farm work.

She received a response from one farmer which sounded promising.

“It was four hours’ driving from Brisbane, in the middle of nowhere,” she told 7.30.

“When I arrived, I found a really dirty house with a really dirty farmer.

“He knocked and I said, ‘I’m having a shower, don’t come in’, but he came in anyway.”

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

Ms. Cek said the farmer didn’t touch her.

“I was so scared of him I posted on Facebook to ask if someone knew the farm, or anything about him and I heard a lot of bad things,” she said.

“I heard about a girl who was here four days before me who was a victim of sexual assault.

“He tried to remove her bra, he tried to put his hand down her pants.”

She slept with a knife under her pillow and called police the next day to help her flee the remote property.

She never made an official complaint, because no assault ever occurred.

The farmer declined to comment.

‘Some growers spoil it for everyone’

In order to stay a second year in Australia, backpackers need to do 88 days of work either on a farm, in construction or in mining.

Ludmilla gave up on the 88 days, but last financial year nearly 33,000 backpackers completed it and were granted a second-year visa.

The vast majority, 94 per cent, worked on farms and the industry group Growcom acknowledged there had been some issues.

“We have lots of examples of where backpackers and the growers have a great relationship,” the group’s chief advocate, Rachel Mackenzie, said.

“Unfortunately there are some growers who spoil it for everyone.

“Our work force has a tendency towards being vulnerable because it’s seasonal, short-term and casual.”

A senate investigation last year found allegations of “exploitation” and “slavery-like” conditions for backpackers in Australia.

It called for an urgent review of the 88-day program.

Ms Mackenzie said part of the problem was that while growers need a seasonal workforce, backpackers may not be the best fit.

“We have a whole bunch of people who don’t necessarily want to work in agriculture who feel forced to be working in agriculture,” she said.

“It has been a really neat fit for backpackers with the 88 days and we don’t want to see that taken away but I think we need to look for a longer-term solution.”

Edit: With the shelving of the ag visa (see article, 03/10/18), we do need a solution to not only help farmers with their crops but also offer backpackers a better solution to staying in Australia and having a better experience.

Comments welcome.


Source: ABC

Sourced by Mike Barrow