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Labor’s attack on backpackers will hurt regional Victoria

Joint media release

The Hon Dan Tehan MP, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Member for Wannon
Senator the Hon Sarah Henderson, Shadow Minister for Education, Senator for Victoria

Senator for Victoria, Sarah Henderson, said the Albanese Labor Government’s two-pronged attack on backpackers would be devastating to regional communities across Victoria.

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.

Senator Henderson said regional Victorian 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,” Senator Henderson 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.”

“From Wangaratta to Bendigo to Daylesford to Torquay, the Coalition strongly supports the important contribution backpackers make under our successful Working Holiday Maker program. Prime Minister Albanese needs to stand up today and match our commitment.”

There are more than 137,000 WHM visa holders currently in Australia who are spending money on holidays and working in critical industries. WHM visa holders make up to 80 per cent of the harvest labour force in horticulture, while in other commodities they account for five to 15 per cent 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.”

Limiting the WHM visa to one year was a key recommendation of Labor’s Review of the Migration System which was provided to the Albanese 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.”

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