According to many groups, Australian farmers must avoid recruiting foreign backpackers to grow their fields, and then recruit young people in state and rural areas.
An coalition has been established by the Australian Workers’ Union, the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association and the Transport Workers’ Union, pressing for an immediate end to working holidaymakers visa.
The Supermarket Supply Chain Alliance, in a report to a federal study of the farm workers, argued that the backpacker scheme was fraught with discrimination and advocated on more Australians to operate on farms as well as extend the seasonal worker programme.
It comes days after the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA) business group told a parliamentary inquiry that banning working holidaymakers would cost the country $13 billion and could push fresh fruit and vegetables prices up by as much as 60 per cent.
AFPA has reported that about 130,000 workers were usually hired around the industry on the working holidaymaker visa.
But backpacker numbers have fallen by 50,000 since Australia introduced restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 earlier this year.
AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said the pandemic had shown the horticulture industry’s over-reliance on overseas workers at a time when regional unemployment was “through the roof”.
“Farmers need to attract Australians back into the horticulture workforce,” he said.