LETTER: Working visa moves change nothing

The Federal Government’s scheme to plug supposed job shortages in the agriculture sector by allowing backpackers and other visitors to extend their stay will simply support the existing broken and exploitative system.

While some individual measures in the changes might stack up, the overall effect would be to increase exploitation in an industry already rife with it.

We should be very careful not to overstate the job shortage issue. The Harvest Trail JobSearch website indicates there are 1774 vac­ancies nationally for picking jobs, from an industry that employees well over 100,000 casual workers. That doesn’t appear to be a lot of vacancies.

To the extent that there are ­vacancies, we should be asking why. The Prime Minister’s explan­ation is that young Australians are inherently lazy and allergic to work. The AWU’s explanation is that Australians will not accept working under exploitative, unsafe con­ditions. These are the conditions that are rife in the agricultural and horticultural sectors.

The working holiday visa scheme encourages exploitation by its very nature.

The incentives for the working holiday visa scheme are all wrong. Employees just want to check off their days so they can stay on. Employers have no interest in building a normal and healthy employer-employee relationship. No responsible Australian Government should be encouraging the expansion of this dynamic. 

If the government were serious about improving labour supply and reducing exploitation, it could simply make these new measures accessible to approved employers only. This is what happens under the Seasonal Worker Program. 

The reason they won’t do this is they know many growers and farmers would not get approved. 

Daniel Walton, 

AWU National Secretary

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