Australian farm groups condemn changes to WHM visa structure

Farm groups have condemned the government’s changes to the structure of the Working Holiday Visa (WHM), saying it endangers Australian food production and exacerbates problems of labor shortages. Visa holders working in the tourism and hospitality industries in the northern, remote and very remote areas of Australia will be able to count this for eligibility for a second or third year extension, without completing the agricultural work.

The government said the option would be available to those applying from March 2022, but it would take into account work already done in these areas from June 22.

Lobbyist Growcom called the changes “divorced from the farming reality,” and Growcom’s policy officer Richard Shannon said no farm organization, including the National Farmers Federation, had been made aware of the changes. made to immigration regulations. “A change with such a huge impact on the availability of backpacker workforce that the industry should not be consulted is beyond belief.”

In Queensland, where the majority of the country’s winter fruits and vegetables are grown, the state government estimates that 4,000-9,000 workers are short at harvest. There are fewer than 40,000 working holidaymakers left in Australia, compared to the usual 150,000.

With around three-quarters of the usual horticultural workforce made up of backpackers, Shannon said the move would make the pain worse. “We’re going to be short already and allowing backpackers to do 88 days in tourism or hospitality will only exacerbate this problem further,” he said. reports that the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) criticizes the move as likely to reduce the available labor force, especially for farmers in the north and remote areas.

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