Vege growers want all the backpackers for themselves

January 14th, 2015 | | news

Second WHVRight now Working Holiday Makers must spend 88 days working in the agriculture, mining or construction industry to be eligible to extend their visa for a second year.

Regional tourism operators are pushing for changes to the Working Holiday Visa, so that they can extend their stay by working in regional restaurants, caravan parks and motels.

But the vegetable grower’s lobby (AUSVEG) says such a change would be crippling for their sector, by making it harder for growers to source enough labour during critical harvest and packing periods. AUSVEG Spokesman Andrew McDonald said any change would have a massive and detrimental impact on the veggie growing industry. “We don’t want to see that workforce diluted by having them potentially opt for tourism jobs over the agricultural jobs that are so important to our industry.” He added.

Other horticulture sectors also expressed concern at the idea, which is expected to be a part of an upcoming White Paper looking at growing and food production in northern Australia. The Federal Government has assured the agriculture sector it will carefully consider any changes to the Working Holiday Visa.

In countering this the Chair of the Australian Regional Tourism Network, David Sheldon, said it was ‘extremely difficult’ to find enough qualified labour, and backpackers often had the basic food service and hospitality skills regional tourism operations need. He rejected the idea that letting backpackers work in tourism would hurt the agriculture sector. “I think it would open up the market and be beneficial to all sectors of the economy,” Sheldon said. “If we look at the hospitality and the produce side of the market, Australia has a big push for our local produce.

Both the sectors should be working hand-in-hand to make it successful.” Some enquires indicate that in the past 18 months there has become an over-supply of labour (in some areas) looking for harvest work, that this work is in short supply, that some backpackers are not achieving their 88 day requirements and are going home.

Also, as exampled in The Byte previously some employers are also exploiting the backpackers they employ.


What do you think should be done about the regional work requirements for the Second Working Holiday Visa? Have your say


Written by Chris Harrison


2 Responses

  1. Seems to me that AUSVEG are making assumptions here that are untested. It may be that if the rules changed some would pick up regional hospitality work instead of harvest work. On the other hand the pool of people going for a second year would increase and some may have a crack at both kinds of work to make their 88 day requirement. Over the past 18 months there have reportedly been too many working holiday makers seeking too few harvest jobs and so missing out on the second year. Is this right or is Andrew McDonald correct? Other thing is that stories of poor employment terms and conditions don’t help the farmers even if it is only a few bad apples.

  2. Disappointing that the whole focus of the WHMV change in the article is based on the 88 days regional hospitality work.

    Agree with Julian in that it is untested however there are other changes in the ATEC policy position such as increasing the age to 35, holding the cost of the Visa & allowing a 2nd application after returning home.

    We need to work to grow the pie & be competitive on a Global stage. We are losing our attractiveness by being uncompetitive & the WHMV program needs to continue evolving.

    Unfortunately, stories like this are out numbered by WHM’s stories of employments conditions, non-existent jobs or quality of accommodations & other services regionally which need to be addressed as well.

    These travelers are connected more than ever before & they are our best promotional tool from a Tourism perspective if we deliver the expectations & experiences we promote. Backpacking is a $3b plus sector to the AU economy. They are the second highest yielding international segment (after students/education) due to their length of stay & the WHMV is an essential part of hitting the 2020 targets of doubling tourism receipts. We need advocates like these travelers.