14 November 2012

Farming association to lobby for Australia visa changes

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The National Farmers Federation intends to put a proposal to the federal government this week urging for changes to Australia visa policy.

Australia visa

The National Farmers Federation claims their access to foreign skilled workers could be greatly improved.

The farming lobby includes three specific changes to two Australia visa streams: the working holiday visa (subclass 417) and the 457 visa for temporary skilled workers. National Farmers Federation (NFF) President Jock Laurie says the proposed changes are required to allow the industry to deal with a nationwide skills shortage.

The proposals include adding more farming skills to be taken into consideration for skilled visas and to make it easier for working holiday makers - typically backpackers - to be transferred to the longer term 457 visa.

"A lot of the skills we need come harvest time aren't actually on the [eligibility] list, and in many industries that's proving to be a problem," said Mr Laurie.

"And a real problem is being about what is actually required on a farm - so we need to figure out exactly what we need and then convince the government.

"Coming out of the back of a drought, when there was little demand for skills, we know have a huge demand, so we need to identify what's needed and then make the changes."

Mr Laurie says the farming industry heavily relies on backpackers during harvest time but the work is mainly limited to unskilled labour such as fruit picking. However, due to the intensity of harvest times, other skills are needed such as the use of heavy machinery or working with livestock.

The NFF claim this presents a lose-lose situation for many farmers; as the skills needed do not qualify an applicant for a 457 visa, they are forced to spend time training a working holiday maker who is then going to leave either after they have completed the 88 days of regional work required of them to gain a second year working holiday visa or after they reach the six month limit stipulated in the working holiday visa conditions.

Mr Laurie also added that the proposal, to be presented to the government on Friday, includes an appeal to prevent the government from increasing the cost of a working holiday visa by AU$80 (£53) as of next year, a policy change which was announced last month.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.

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