Farmers in regional areas will now get more support to resolve labour shortages with new changes to two visa programs.
Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson said changes to the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa program will target genuine workforce shortages in regional areas, such as the Southern Forests region.
The changes include an increase to the number of visa holders and will also enable them to extend their time in Australia by undertaking agricultural work in new areas across the country.
Changes to the Seasonal Worker Program will also make it easier for farmers to access workers for a longer period with less administration costs.
“We don’t want fruit rotting on the vine or crops left in the field and it’s vital our farmers maximise their hard work and economic returns,” Mr Wilson said.
“We remain focused on addressing regional workforce shortages by providing more workforce options and flexibility to help our farmers pick their fruit and harvest their crops,” Mr Wilson said.
“Changes include lifting the annual caps on visas, expanding the number of regional areas where work and holiday makers can work for three months in specified farming work, and allowing 12 months of work with the same agricultural employer.
“These incentives will encourage more workers to the regions that need them and provide working holiday makers with more flexibility.”
Changes to Working Holiday Maker visas:
- Work and Holiday makers (subclass 462) will be able to undertake regional plant and animal cultivation work in additional priority areas to become eligible for a second visa.
- Extension of the period a WHM (subclass 417 and 462) may work with the same agricultural employer from six to 12 months.
- Introduction of a third year visa option for WHM (subclasses 417 and 462), who from 1 July 2019 onwards complete six months of regional work in the second year.
- Increase the number of places available for Work and Holiday Maker program (subclass 462) by lifting annual caps available to a number of countries participating in the subclass 462 visa program.
These changes require a strict workforce test to be applied to ensure Australian workers are given the first opportunity for work.
Changes to the Seasonal Worker Program:
- Increase work period in Australia to nine months for all workers (currently six months for some countries).
- Increase validity of labour market testing prior to recruiting workers from three to six months.
- Reduce out of pocket expenses for employers (workers repay their full travel costs except for the first $300; a reduction from the previous $500).