Federal Leichhardt MP, Warren Entsch has declared the Albanese Labor Government’s two-pronged attack on backpackers a devastating blow to the Leichhardt community and local economy.
Starting 1 July, Labor will increase the cost of the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa by $130 to $640, making it the highest fee visa of its kind in the world.
The Government is also considering cutting the WHM visa to one-year and removing any regional work requirements.
Warren Entsch said Leichhardt relied on backpackers to work in essential industries and support businesses by spending their money locally.
“By making the Working Holiday Maker visa so expensive it will discourage backpackers from coming to Australia, which means fewer workers helping out in agriculture and hospitality jobs and fewer visitors supporting our tourism businesses,” Mr Entsch said.
“If Labor cuts the backpacker visa to just one year it will devastate our local economy as well as other regional economies around the country.
“We love backpackers in Far North Queensland, and the Coalition supports our successful Working Holiday Maker program. Prime Minister Albanese needs to stand up today and match our commitment.”
There are more than 180,000 WHM visa holders currently in Australia who are spending money on holidays and working in critical industries. WHM visa holders make up to 80% of the harvest labour force in horticulture, while in other commodities they account for 5% to 15% of the junior, casual and seasonal workforce.
Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Dan Tehan said the backpacker sector contributed $3 billion to the economy and helped address critical workforce shortages, especially in regional Australia.
“Labor are making backpackers the scapegoat for their Big Australia policy. Under Labor 1.5 million people are coming to Australia over five years in the middle of a housing crisis, and Anthony Albanese’s solution is to price backpackers out of coming here,” Mr Tehan said.
“Labor’s attack on backpackers will be disastrous for our tourism and agriculture sectors and it will make us a less attractive destination for visitors.”
Shadow Minister Tehan said limiting the WHM visa to one year was a key recommendation in Labor’s Review of the Migration System, that was provided to government in March.
Even the Labor Government-funded Tourism Australia is calling for the WHM program to be expanded and made cheaper not cut: “WHMs are a valuable travelling segment. They tend to stay longer, spend more and disperse more widely throughout the country than other international arrivals. Tourism Australia is broadly supportive of any changes made to WHM visa settings that expand the visa criteria for WHMs and reduce the costs associated with obtaining a WHM visa.”