24 Oct 2012
By Alex Sampson for The Weekly Times       

AUSTRALIAN growers could lose out on labour due to a visa price-hike.  Growers are concerned backpackers – who make up a significant portion of the seasonal workforce – won’t be able to afford the Federal Government’s decision to raise the cost of working holiday visas by nearly 30 per cent.

Treasurer Wayne Swan announced the price hike during Monday’s mid-year budget review, upping the working holiday maker visa from $280 to $360, from January 1 next year. Peak vegetable industry body AusVeg said hundreds of vegetable growers were facing a potential loss of their seasonal workforce.

AusVeg national marketing manager Simon Coburn said many vegetable growers relied on backpackers with working visas to assist them during the busiest times of the year.

“We need to look at the bigger picture here; it is not worth the risk for the Government to pocket an extra $80 from these workers, when it may discourage them from visiting our country and assisting the Australian agriculture industry,” he said.

VFF Horticulture President Sue Finger said horticulture was already facing extreme and chronic labour shortages and Government should be doing everything possible to encourage seasonal workers.
“At a time when we desperately need workers, Treasurer Wayne Swan releases this ridiculous impost on one of our greatest sources of harvest labour,” Ms Finger said.

“Horticulture producers are more aware than most that we live in a global marketplace. Now were at risk of pricing ourselves out of the market when it comes to attracting overseas workers. Now, people applying for the working holiday visa must have $5000 and a return air fare in their pockets before coming to Australia.
“The high Australian dollar makes this even harder,” Ms Finger said.