BREAKING BYTE: Repercussions of the backpacker tax are beginning to byte in rural Victoria

January 31st, 2017 | | jobs

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

Source: ABC

4 Responses

  1. Greg says:

    I don’t have any insight into the availability of farm labour but talking to backpacker operators in Vic/Tas the general consensus seems to be that numbers are a bit down on the same time last year in hostels. Whether that’s because less people are visiting / less working / staying shorter periods etc is hard to tell so far but the negative publicity overseas alone would surely have had a dampening effect.

  2. John George says:

    As I have said before, the poor application and understanding of the rules around piecework rates means backpackers feel exploited when working on this basis and so as word spreads less people are attracted by this work.
    Since backpackers generally are slower than a more experienced average competent worker they struggle to make adequate money, so look elsewhere.
    That is my theory anyway.
    We have no shortage of people ringing looking for beds and work, but as things are slow to start, and most likely they will be working at piecework rates there is a level of reluctance to commit to come.
    I don’t think the tax is an issue at all.
    We are also continuing to see and hear about cash in hand work being offered.

  3. Joanna says:

    I have just been doing expos in the UK and the USA. Most people in the backpacker age group who came to our stand had never heard of a Working Holiday let alone Backpacker Tax – so it is all a ramp up by the press I reckon.
    Negative publicity by the press makes a negative story and then we have to correct it. We have been our own worst enemy it seems.

    In the USA no one who came to the Gap Year Fairs had heard of the backpacker tax or the Work & Holiday Visa. We started from square 1. However they were all very interested in paid jobs; the alternative for young Americans is a very expensive semester with hand held while they are volunteering their labour. These experiences cost up to $50,000 for a semester!
    I listened in to the latest info session by the ATO about the 15% tax. Farmers do not have to register but if they don’t they have to charge 32.5%.
    There are special arrangements for Au Pairs.

  4. Macca says:

    Many employers are completely confused on employing backpackers. One only has to see the raise in the number of Pacific Islander workers in both the harvest fields and hospitality industry.