The Productivity Commissions’ report on migrant intake into Australia has today supported calls from the farming sector to scrap the ‘backpacker tax’ and more broadly improve access to temporary migrants to meet a growing agricultural workforce shortfall.
National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President, Brent Finlay, said the report, released earlier today, solidified the organisation’s long-held calls for policy that better allowed farmers to tap into the large temporary labour force offered by working holiday makers and other temporary visa holders.
“This is of clear mutual benefit to both farmers and those wishing to work whilst on holiday in Australia and a relatively simple way to inject cash into the national economy through agricultural productivity and enhanced spending in regional communities,” Mr Finlay said.
“It is important to note today’s report explicitly calls on the Government to give greater consideration to the community-wide costs of both the backpacker tax and the refusal of Government to recognise voluntary farm work as contributing towards a second year visa.”
The report also recommended smarter use of information and technology to help protect overseas workers while in Australia, another measure advocated for by the NFF.
“Working holiday makers provide an invaluable contribution to farm businesses,” Mr Finlay said.
“While on farm, they benefit from cultural exchange, learn our language and our rural way of life, while rural Australians are exposed to overseas customs and cultures.
“However, a growing body of evidence clearly shows recent changes to migration programs have delivered ‘death by a thousand cuts’ by systematically tightening rules around access to working holiday makers, who would otherwise take up farm work, and who collectively make up one quarter of the agricultural workforce.
“Today’s report provides additional evidence to underpin our long-held views and we repeat our calls on the Government to act decisively to scrap the backpacker tax, which is currently being reviewed, once and for all and to adopt policy that encourages, rather than deters, working holiday makers from rural and regional work.
“The overwhelming result will be more vibrant and prosperous agricultural and regional communities.”