National Farmers Federation calls for establishment of a farm visa

THE National Farmers Federation (NFF) has renewed calls for the creation of a farm visa to enable visitors such as backpackers to work in agriculture while holidaying in Australia.

The call follows the Australian Government’s release of a ‘Review of Regional Migration Settings’ discussion paper, which is open for submissions until 26 July.

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As part of its strategy, the Government is evaluating the Working Holiday Maker program to ensure migration supports development objectives in regional Australia and does not contribute to the exploitation of migrant workers.

NFF Acting CEO Charlie Thomas said in the second half of 2023, nearly 12,000 working holiday makers chose to work in agriculture in Australia.

On the Coffs Coast, many of these visitors find employment in the local blueberry industry.

Mr Thomas said a survey the NFF conducted earlier this year found farmers would change what they grew or even quit farming if their access to overseas workers was reduced.

“63 percent of farmers said removing the 88-day work incentive would have a ‘catastrophic’ impact on their business,” he said.

“Backpackers play a critical role in our farm workforce.

“The fact is without them, we’d simply see farmers walk away from farming.”

Mr Thomas said backpackers were unique in being able to provide a range of skills to the sector, while injecting thousands of dollars back into regional communities.

He said the agriculture industry was committed to playing its part in guaranteeing backpackers safe and rewarding work during their 88 days.

“Research has shown backpackers want a true-blue Aussie experience, throwing themselves into the communities inside and outside their work,” Mr Thomas said.

“This generates billions for the tourism economy.

“There is no place in our industry for people who don’t look after their workers.

“We’re open to practical solutions that address the issue directly, rather than simply shutting off access to workers.

“We continue to say a purpose-built agriculture visa is the smart solution.

“A dedicated visa would be responsive to the industry’s unique needs, minimise administrative and financial burdens, safeguard workers against exploitation and attract people who want to work on farm.

“It ticks all the boxes.

“We strongly urge the Government to put this back on the agenda as a holistic solution.”

By Mike HELY

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