The Joint Committee on Migration has released it’s final report for the inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker Program. BYTAP supports the recommendations of their report and their comments around the importance of the Working Holiday program.
Below is a summary prepared by Mr Julian Leeser MP who chaired the committee and a list of the final recommendations.
The Working Holiday Maker (WHM) Program is a vital migration program for Australia.
In recent years the program has attracted more than 200,000 young tourists annually from 44 different countries to travel and work in Australia. Australia remains the number one destination for working holiday makers globally.
For 45 years the WHM program has enabled people to gain a deeper understanding and a more diverse experience of our country and its culture. The program also contributes to our international reputation by building advocates for Australia around the world.
In exchange, the program provides similar opportunities for Australians to travel the world and bring their experiences and knowledge back to this country. This report makes a detailed case for the WHM program.
WHMs play a critical role in filling skills shortages across Australia, particularly in our horticultural and agricultural industries, which continue to face the challenge of attracting Australians to fill these jobs. WHMs are uniquely suited to the seasonal nature of these jobs because they are a flexible, short term workforce with a desire to travel and experience work in our iconic farming regions which often struggle with labour shortages.
The program is also vital to our tourism industry contributing $3.1 billion annually to Australia’s economy and creating tourism jobs all over Australia, particularly in regional areas.
In 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing the global movement of people, Australians have recognised just how valuable the WHM program is.
In September, the Committee produced an Interim Report dealing with some of the challenges that had arisen from the pandemic induced border closures. The Committee heard significant evidence about the urgent need to address the substantial labour shortages Australia’s agricultural and horticultural industry is facing this harvest season. The Committee’s recommendations addressed these shortages, focusing on ways to enable and incentivise Australians, WHMs and other visa holders remaining in Australia to head to the regions to pick fruit.
The Government subsequently made announcements picking up many of the recommendations put forward in the Interim Report with the goal of making sure as much labour as possible is directed to places where there is a critical need. The Government’s measures incentivise Australians and visa holders to fill workforce gaps the pandemic has created.
This report builds on the findings of the interim report and calls for more to be done to promote the opportunities available right now in regional and remote Australia.
This report also looks to the future. While the interim report dealt with changes to the program to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic this report focuses on longer term changes to the visa program and other technical matters such as the need to implement the Report of the Migrant Worker Taskforce and to incentivise a broader range of visa holders to undertake agricultural and horticultural work at this critical time.
On behalf of the committee I would like to thank all those who made submissions and gave evidence to this inquiry.
I commend the report to the Parliament.
Mr Julian Leeser MP
The Committee recommends that the Government maintains the Working Holiday Maker program and notes its value to Australia.
The Committee recommends:
The Department of Home Affairs remains the lead agency with responsibility for the WHM program.
An interdepartmental committee (IDC) to provide oversight of the WHM visa be established. The IDC would meet at least twice a year and comprise senior executive officers from departments and agencies with an interest in the WHM to discuss issues arising from the program. The IDC should have the flexibility to meet on an ad hoc basis as the need arises but specially to deal with agricultural and tourism workforce shortages, issues relating to the employment of WHM and the negotiation of agreements with additional countries.
The Committee recommends that Working Holiday (subclass 417) and Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa holders should be able to work in tourism and hospitality in all hard-to-staff rural and remote areas of Australia as part of their 88 days or 6 months to qualify for their second- or third- year WHM visa.
The Committee recommends the Government review the definition of ‘regional’ for the purposes of migration with a view to providing a new tiered definition that recognises:
Smaller state capital cities;
and that the experiences and opportunities in each of these different areas will be substantially different.
In considering the new tiered definition of regional, the Government should give thought to the effect of any definition of regional for peri-urban areas, many of which have the same characteristics as regional areas just a few kilometres away.
The Committee recommends that the Government continue to seek opportunities to increase the WHM upper age limit to 35 where bilateral negotiations can yield the same outcome for Australians.
The Committee recommends that the Government continue to seek opportunities to expand the WHM program through bilateral negotiations with new countries.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Home Affairs give consideration to providing workers who are undertaking work as part of their 3 months or 6 months with clearer guidance about what amount of work qualifies as a ‘day’.
The Committee recommends that Working Holiday (subclass 417) and Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa holders should be able to work for the same employer for more than 6 months in hard-to-staff rural and remote areas of Australia without asking permission in the following industries:
Tourism or hospitality;
Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
Mining and construction;
Health care, disability care and aged care.
The Committee recommends that the Government instigate an advertising campaign to promote measures it has taken to encourage Australians and visa holders to undertake agricultural work to meet the shortages arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Committee recommends that the Government undertake a tailored marketing campaign to promote the COVID-19 Pandemic event (408 subclass) visa to temporary visa holders in Australia.
The Committee recommends that the Government expedite the implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce.
The Committee recommends that an app be developed for WHMs to augment the hotline recommended in the Interim Report.
The Committee recommends that the Fair Work Ombudsman develop an embassy liaison group to liaise on a regular basis about workplace issues raised with embassies by their citizens.
The Committee recommends that the Government consider additional concessions to SHEV and TPV holders who undertake at least one year of agricultural or horticultural work in a regional area, and are prepared to settle in a regional areas, such as:
Subsidised VET training courses for skilled occupations experiencing chronic skills shortages (of at least 10 years); and
Other incentives that assist SHEV and TPV holders to meet requirements under a range of available visas, including the skilled migration scheme.
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