Topics: Campaign to get more backpackers from New Zealand to travel to Australia.
Scott Emerson: Now, there’s a new campaign that’s been kicked off to try to get Kiwis to come to Australia to help out our farms and fruit picking there. Now the man behind all that is the Tourism and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, and he joins us now on 4BC Drive. Minister, thanks for being on the show.
Simon Birmingham: G’day, Scott. Great to be with you again.
Scott Emerson: Yeah, thank you. Now this campaign, it sounds like a great idea. Why do we need Kiwis to come over here?
Simon Birmingham: Well, usually we have about 150,000- 130,000 or so backpackers in Australia at any particular point in time, especially this time of year. But this year, we’ve only got about 50,000 here. Now backpackers serve two purposes. They spend quite a lot of money while they’re here. They usually spend every dollar they earn while they’re here. Some of the savings they bring with them and they’ll often ask mum or dad to send them a bit more while they’re here. So they’re quite good for local economy as tourists. They stay a long time and they spend a lot. But they also, while moving around, often do a lot of seasonal jobs that are hard to fill. And so we’re struggling at present in many farming and regional horticultural districts to fill some of those seasonal jobs. And thankfully, most states – not quite all…open to Kiwis to come, because they have suppressed COVID to the same degree in New Zealanders as we have in Australia. It’s a great success story and it’s safe for people to travel from New Zealand into Australia. And so we want to get some of those backpackers back for our tourism industry and to do some of those jobs.
Scott Emerson: You probably knew the question I was going to ask. It’s a great campaign, but it can’t come to Queensland. They’re not really going to get into Queensland because we’re not letting Kiwis in yet.
Simon Birmingham: Well, the beauty of the backpacker is they’re moving around, so as much as I think that Queensland and Western Australia’s restrictions on Kiwis are completely unjustified and unnecessary, and that every other state and territory has looked at it and said: these people are as safe as anybody else in Australia and we ought to let them in. At least with backpackers, they can come and they can spend two weeks, four weeks, a few months working in New South Wales, or South Australia, or Victoria, or Tasmania, or the Northern Territory, or the ACT. They can come into any of those six states or territories. They can move about freely, get underway. And of course, once they’ve been there a couple of weeks, they can then manage to get into Queensland.
Scott Emerson: Well, hopefully that will be the case. Now, I know we’ll get a lot of callers about this and a lot of feedback on our texts and our website about this, but why do we need Kiwi backpackers? There’s a lot of people who haven’t got- young people who haven’t got jobs. Why can’t they go out there and do this work?
Simon Birmingham: Well, they certainly can, and I’d encourage that too. But the first thing I’d say about Kiwi backpackers, or indeed any international backpackers, is that, yes, they come and do a job, but while they here, they support many more jobs, because they are tourists who spend a lot of money travelling around the country each year. Usually, we get spending to our tourism industry of more than $3 billion from the backpackers, from working holidaymakers. And so that sustains a whole lot of other jobs. So they’re good to have for that reason. But yes, I would encourage Australians to look at these opportunities too, particularly potentially young Australians who might have been thinking about going and doing a gap year themselves at present. That’s obviously not as easy, not as desirable in many parts of the world as it ordinarily would be. So why not do your own gap year experience around Australia, get out there, do some of these jobs in some of the magnificent parts of regional Australia and have that gap year, that holiday doing it right here.
Scott Emerson: Now, we did- have seen reports last week about questions being raised, about the conditions on some of these farms. The pay that they’re getting, the kind of work they’re being expected to do, and rewards for doing that. Do you have any concerns about that?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I have concerns that there are a few bad apples in the barrel and we definitely want to make sure that they are called out, caught out, and punished. And so we’ve put extra resourcing into the Fair Work Ombudsman to be able to do that. We give lots of information to backpackers and others when they enter Australia to make sure that they are aware of their rights and the obligations of any employers. And of course, the vast majority do do the right thing. That’s why we have such a good reputation and have so many new backpackers coming back each and every year. So, people should have confidence that like in any workplace sector, the overwhelming majority of employers are fellow hardworking Australians who are simply running a small business, doing the right thing for themselves and for their employees. And, you know, for some Australians, there are relocation allowances of up to $6000 that we’ve made available to try and encourage people who might be in a position to do so, to move to where some of this work is, to undertake these jobs, and to get more Australians to do so too.
Scott Emerson: All right, Simon Birmingham, thank you for being on 4BC Drive this afternoon.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Scott. My pleasure.