In September, the Joint Committee on Migration decided to produce an interim report for the inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker Program because of the urgent need to address the substantial labour shortages Australia’s agricultural and horticultural industry is facing for the upcoming harvest season.
BYTAP supports the recommendations made by the Joint Committee and believes it is a favourable result for the Backpacker & Youth Tourism Industry whom they represent.
The inquiry continues with many more public hearings being held. The Joint Committee will include further recommendations about the structure of the program in the final report which will be handed down by the end of 2020.
To view all information on the Interim report click here. A list of the recommendations has also been included below.
The Committee recommends that the Government urgently develop and implement a ‘Have a Gap Year at Home Campaign’ to attract young Australians, particularly the current cohort of Year 12s and university graduates, to undertake regional work. The campaign should:
Appeal to young Australians’ patriotism and their sense of adventure, enabling them to see their own country and earn money;
Appeal to young people who had planned to take a year off to travel and work overseas;
Provide young people with work and work experience opportunities at a time when there are fewer casual jobs available to young people; and
Give consideration to a HECS/HELP discount for undertaking this work.
The Committee recommends that for the next 12 months, the Government enable workers to stay on JobSeeker payments while undertaking low paid agricultural and horticultural work.
The Committee recommends that for the next 12 months the Government establish a one-off payment to help with the travel and accommodation costs incurred, to be paid after a certain period of time working in regional, rural and remote areas.
The Committee recommends the following amendments be made for the next 12 months to the conditions attached to the Working Holiday Maker visa:
Enable Working Holiday Makers who have undertaken work in key industries in all peri-urban, regional, rural or remote areas, to count their work towards qualifying for a second and/or third year visa.
Allow Working Holiday Makers who have transitioned onto the subclass 408 visa to count essential work undertaken on the 408 visa to support any application to qualify for second and/or third year Working Holiday Maker visas.
Extend the Northern Australia provision, allowing work in hospitality, tourism and other industries to apply in all regional, rural and remote areas.
Enable all Working Holiday Makers to work for the same employer for more than six months, if they are in peri-urban, regional, rural and remote parts of Australia to provide more certainty for visa holders and employers.
Recognise the importance for Working Holiday Makers to move across state borders, particularly between locations where there are high labour force needs and no COVID-19 cases, and facilitate appropriate exemptions and permits subject to approval by health authorities.
Provide further financial and other incentives to encourage Working Holiday Makers who have completed their time in agriculture to stay and engage in more agricultural work.
In regard to temporary amendments to other temporary visa categories, the Committee recommends that for the next 12 months the Government:
Incentivise international student graduates to stay in Australia after completing their studies, by offering an additional year or two for graduates eligible for a subclass 485 Temporary Graduate visa who undertake work in critical industries in peri-urban, regional, rural and remote parts of Australia.
Make available incentive payments or support for transport and accommodation costs to international students who undertake work in peri-urban, regional, rural and remote parts of Australia during non-teaching period.
Enable people on other temporary work visas, such as the subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage visa, who have lost their jobs, to work in critical industries in the absence of a specific employer sponsor.
Consider any work students or subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage visa holders do in critical industries as counting towards the extension of visas, or where applicable as counting towards a pathway to permanent residency.
The Committee recommends that the Government review the necessity for the measures in recommendations 2, 3, 4 and 5 after 12 months.
In in order to facilitate the restarting of the Working Holiday Maker program and maintain the reputation of the program overseas, the Committee recommends that the Government:
Enable current Working Holiday Maker visa holders who have had to leave the country, or were unable to enter the country and make use of their visas, to reapply for either the 417 or 462 subclass visas, paying a nominal fee with priority processing times.
Extend age limits for current visa holders, if they have exceeded the age limits of 30 or 35 years, while waiting to use their visas. This should also be extended to those who were already granted visas so they can re-enter the country despite exceeding the age limits.
Consider granting visas on a country by country basis as borders start to reopen, prioritising countries where there are lower levels of COVID-19 infection rates. Alternatively, consider prioritising countries where Working Holiday Makers usually undertake work in Australia for which there is the greatest need.
Consider a sponsorship program requiring peak bodies, businesses or governments to help sponsor quarantine arrangements, or alternatively reimburse the costs of quarantine incurred by Working Holiday Makers after a certain period working in jobs where shortages exist.
The Committee recommends the establishment of a hotline for Working Holiday Makers where they can access all the advice they need regarding their work rights, workplace exploitation concerns, accommodation and employment options in one place.
The Committee recommends that Australians, Working Holiday Makers, and other temporary visa holders be made more aware of the Harvest Trail to enable the service to be better utilised and to facilitate the matching of willing workers to the areas where the need is greatest.
The Committee recommends that the Federal Government work with State and Territory governments and industry peak bodies to recruit additional people under the Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme to fill urgent agricultural shortfalls.