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Calls for working holiday visas for foreign backpackers to be SCRAPPED

Farmers and unions have clashed over calls to stop hiring international backpackers to harvest Australian crops and employ unemployed young people instead.

Three high profile unions have joined forces to call for the working holiday maker visa to be abolished, arguing the program is rife with systemic and widespread exploitation.

They have called for more young people in regional and rural areas to be hired, and urged federal politicians to allow more Pacific Islanders to work on Australian farms.

The National Farmers’ Federation acknowledged backpackers needed better protection from ‘deplorable, sometimes illegal actions’ in Australia, but argued banning working holiday makers was not the answer.

NFF president Fiona Simson said up to 80 per cent of the horticultural sector’s workforce was migrant labour.

Ms Simson dismissed the unions’ call as a ‘short-sighted, juvenile, headline grabbing stunt’.

‘Farmers would always prefer to employ Australians,’ she said on Tuesday.

‘But the facts this gang of unions choose to ignore are that farmers simply cannot source the local workers they need and therefore rely on international workers to help put food on the shelves for all Australians.’ 

ork in the coming months, as most are unable to enter the country because of the closure of Australia’s international borders.

Many backpackers left the country at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged temporary visa holders to leave at the start of April.

‘These (student) visas, and those who are in Australia under various visa arrangements, they are obviously not held here compulsorily,’ he said at the time.

‘If they are not in a position to support themselves then there is the alternative for them to return to their home countries.

‘We still have quite a number of people who are here on visitor visas.

‘As much as it is lovely to have visitors to Australia in good times, at times like this if you’re a visitor in this country, it is time, as it has been now for some while – and I know many visitors have – to make your way home and to ensure that you can receive the supports that are available … in your home countries.’

Most who are still here are ineligible for handouts like JobKeeper and JobSeeker. 

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