Big unions blind to benefits of working holiday scheme

AUSTRALIA’S big unions are putting pressure on the Labor Party to wind back the working holiday maker scheme should Bill Shorten become Prime Minister.  

The unions are demanding a lower cap on the number of working holiday visa holders and want to abandon the second year of the visa program, which the travellers could only access if they work in the regions.  

These changes would be a major concern for many businesses, particularly in regional Australia. Limiting the scheme would ignore the benefit of working holiday makers both as tourists and as workers. Abolishing the second year of the program would particularly harm regional Australia as it would axe a key incentive for working holiday makers to head to regional areas.

The big unions would claim that working holiday makers take jobs that Australians could do. But many working holiday makers fill farm and tourism jobs in the regions that are often short term and seasonal. There are not enough job-seeking Australians who are willing or able to move for this type of work. Working holiday makers help fill these gaps and ensure our regional businesses continue to thrive.

Working holiday makers have strict limitations on how long they can work, and all work done by temporary visa holders must be in accordance with workplace laws. These rights need to be respected and enforced to ensure that the experience of these valuable visitors is a positive one.  

We are a big country and we want our regions as well as our cities to share in economic growth. Agriculture and tourism are mainstays of job creation in regional Australia and the working holiday maker visa meets our particular need.

Most working holiday makers come here with the goal of seeing as much of Australia as they can. Working their way around Australia brings them into contact with many of the sights and experiences which they can take back and share with their family and friends. 

This is why, for the tourism sector, the working holiday maker scheme is not only about the work they do but also the value of the money they spend as tourists. This creates jobs for Australians. Working holiday makers generally spend 2 ½ times more than they earn travelling around Australia.  

Tourism is Australia’s standout industry performer and cutting back on the visa scheme would do a great deal of harm.  

The government knows this and has increased the number of people allowed to come here to support regional businesses and, under strict conditions, stay on for a third year.

This is why, for the tourism sector, the working holiday maker scheme is not only about the work they do but also the value of the money they spend as tourists. This creates jobs for Australians. Working holiday makers generally spend 2 ½ times more than they earn travelling around Australia.

Improving Australia’s working holiday maker agreements with other countries makes it easier for young Australians – our sons and daughters – to work overseas.

In the run up to the election, big unions are going to put pressure on the Labor Party to promise to cut back on temporary visa holders such as working holiday makers and international students.  But unions are out of step with the realities of Australia’s workplaces and our migration system.

Migrants create jobs, they do not take them away.  

Last month, the Australian Chamber released a major statement presenting the evidence of the benefit of migration to Australia.

Migration Works for All of Us looks at both permanent and temporary migration and why it meets our particular needs.

The evidence shows that the working holiday maker scheme works for Australia and we need to ensure that whichever political party takes the reins after the election, they hear this message loud and clear.  

Jenny Lambert is the acting chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Australian Chamber is Australia’s most representative business network. It is the largest voice for small business, and advocates for more than 300,000 business of all sizes, across the country and in every sector of the economy, who employ millions of Australians.