Prime Minister Scott Morrison announces visa changes for backpackers

SWEET FRUIT: Prime Minister Scott Morrison with LNP Forde MP Bert van Manen at the Chambers Flat Strawberry Farm. Photo: Jacob Wilson
SWEET FRUIT: Prime Minister Scott Morrison with LNP Forde MP Bert van Manen at the Chambers Flat Strawberry Farm. Photo: Jacob Wilson

BACKPACKERS will be allowed to work at the Chambers Flat strawberry farm for an extra six months after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Working Holiday visa conditions would be relaxed.

The announcement comes on the second day of the Prime Minister’s bus blitz of Queensland expected to shore up support in marginal seats.

Under the changes, backpackers will be allowed to work for the same employer for one year rather than six months.

There will be opportunities for working holiday visa holders to extend their stay to three years if they work in a regional area for three months in their first year and six months in their second year.

The government will also expand the number of areas considered to be regional so working holiday holders would not be confined to working in Northern Australia to extend their stay.

Mr Morrison said he wanted to see backpackers spend more than $1 billion in regional areas every year.

“We are not quite at that mark yet, we are at about $920 million,” he said.

“I know from my time at Tourism Australia… backpackers when they come don’t go home with any money in their pocket. All the money they earn they spend here.

“The money goes back into regional towns creating more jobs and a vibrant economy.”

Chambers Flat Strawberry Farm owner Laura Hendriksen with Forde MP Bert van Manen and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Jacob Wilson

Chambers Flat Strawberry Farm owner Laura Hendriksen with Forde MP Bert van Manen and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Jacob Wilson

The government will also extend the Seasonal Worker Program for Pacific Islanders to fill labor shortages from six months to nine months.

The cost will be $300 cheaper and there will be less paperwork required.

Mr Morrison hit back at a question that the 15% backpacker tax introduced when he was treasurer would keep them from spending more.

“When people come and work they pay tax… they pay it at a concessional rate and I think it is a fair deal,” he said.

Gold Coast grower and director of Growcom Belinda Adams said the announcement was welcome news.

“I run a small production site on the Gold Coast and employ local people and people with Working Holiday Visas on a 50/50 split,” she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Chambers Flat Strawberry Farm. Photo: Jacob Wilson

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Chambers Flat Strawberry Farm. Photo: Jacob Wilson

“To hear we will run out to 12 months with our staff is fantastic because with just six months we are constantly having to train our staff.”

On Sunday, Mr Morrison announced stage three light rail project funding for the Gold Coast.

Labor front bencher Anthony Albanese said this was already funded by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.  

“This stage of the project, which the Prime Minister “announced’’ on the Gold Coast today, was actually funded in the 2018 Budget in May when Malcolm Turnbull was Prime Minister. The news was leaked to the Herald Sun newspaper,” he said.

“But the Coalition deliberately chose to delay releasing the funding as they waited for a political campaigning opportunity like Mr Morrison’s current bus tour of Queensland.”

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