Topics: Working holiday makers; new Tourism Australia campaign ‘Australia Inc’..



Rebecca Levingston: Today in Brisbane there is a big tourism conference. The Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham is flying in for it, Minister good morning what’s the next pitch?

Simon Birmingham: Good morning Rebecca, great to be with you. Well we’re running a number of campaigns at present across the US market where we’re still running with a very updated modern version of the Dundee campaign. We’ve got campaigns happening in Asia and parts of Europe around ‘Undiscover Australia’ and we have particular campaigns in relation to now working holiday makers. We are really trying to lift the numbers of young people under 30 who come to Australia who spend part of their time working, but spend a lot more of their time spending across our tourism sector.

Rebecca Levingston: Reportedly Tourism Australia says there’s a shift away from working holidays, is that true?

Simon Birmingham: We have seen a small decline in some markets and so we’re looking to try to reverse that and we want to get those younger tourists back to Australia. We know that when they come here they not only spend what they earn, but they spend the savings they brought with them, sometimes I go back to mom and dad and ask for a little bit more as well. So we’re investing seven and a half million dollars in a campaign particularly targeting some of the European markets to try to lift the numbers. We currently have around 304,000 working holiday makers and about 50 percent of them make their way to Queensland and especially of course work in seasonal agricultural industries, seasonal parts the tourism industry and a really important part of the labour market.

Rebecca Levingston: Well Minister on that, recently on ABC Radio Brisbane we’ve been taking a close look at backpackers working, fruit picking on farms. I’m going to play you a little, about a minute or so of audio here that is the story of Harry and his experience.

Harry: So we line up and one of the first things that would happen, actually on my first day the guy in front of me in the line didn’t write his name in capital letters and as she saw that she said I told you if you don’t write your name in capital letters, you are not working for me, get off my farm now. And made him walk about a kilometre onto the main road and he hitchhiked back into Bundaberg. I actually saw one guy get fired for going to the toilet in the bush because the type of toilet break she needed wasn’t one that could happen in the lanes.

Rebecca Levingston: So Minister that was one backpacker I spoke to, four others who shared similar experiences and as you know when people have a negative experience they will go and talk to their family and their friends about that. How worried are you about making sure that backpackers have a good experience and share that good news?

Simon Birmingham: Well there is a real responsibility on particularly those parts of the Australian industry who employ working holidaymakers and rely upon them to be able to get their fruit picked or work in their businesses at those seasonal times of year, to make sure that they are treating them with the same respect anybody else would expect in the workplace.

Rebecca Levingston: But clearly, sorry to interrupt but clearly that’s not happening because I also spoke to Steve Ronson from the Fair Work Ombudsman Office, here’s what he told me.

Steve Ronson: With Harry’s story, I’m afraid to say that it’s rarely a week that goes by without us receiving several stories, multiple stories describing dreadful working conditions for backpackers. Basically there’s almost like a deliberate obfuscation by a range of people involved in this for the supply chain whether that be from the hostel, whether it be the transport provider, the accommodation provider, there are people who even would you believe will extort workers, they’re called job brokers, they call themselves ‘job brokers’ but they will say you pay me some money and I’ll find you a job. I mean it really is a dreadful situation and just for the international reputation perspective, it’s it’s bad for Australia. I mean within the ecosystem, social media is obviously a way that workers can connect with each other and also send messages out and it’s not a good look on Facebook for example as workers describe the conditions varied and what they’re going for.

Rebecca Levingston: Yeah bad for business bad for tourism for sure.

Steve Ronson: It is, it’s it’s awful and it’s just it’s a dreadful experience and when we go through the courts and we take certain employers to court many times the judges will, and these are federal judges and they’ll say this is a blight on Australia’s reputation.

Rebecca Levingston: Steve Ronson from The Fair Work Ombudsman Office. Simon Birmingham is the Federal Tourism Minister who today in Brisbane will launch a new campaign to boost tourism, a part of that is attracting working holidaymakers. Minister would you be better spending some of that money on a crackdown on dodgy labour hire companies?

Simon Birmingham: Well let me give a very clear message to the employees who may do the wrong things, the unscrupulous employers out there off the back of what the Fair Work Ombudsman there has said. That is that when we provide information to visitors to Australia about the safety and precautions they should take while they’re here, we also make sure that there is information available for workers who come to Australia about the Fair Work Ombudsman, how to get in touch, the rights and obligations that exist on employers and as you can hear, people are using the Fair Work Ombudsman Services and the Fair Work Ombudsman is taking employees to court and taking action. So whether it’s an Australian worker or a working holiday maker coming here or the backpacker, employers who do the wrong thing should know that they are at risk of being caught and absolutely the book should be thrown at those who do abuse their employee.

Rebecca Levingston: Minister this campaign that you are launching today is called ‘Australia Inc’, as you said primarily aimed at the European backpacker market. So what we’ve seen in the past I remember at one stage Alexander Downer was in a London train station with sand and sort of lifesavers over there. What form will the campaign take?

Simon Birmingham: This campaign, unsurprisingly in the modern era, it targets very much social media platforms. It will involve posters and other features in train stations and the like and some of the imagery is of course playing on the good sense of humor that you would expects Australia to have. The images of people going off with their surfboards with the tagline inviting people that you can start the day in the office in the boardroom. And it really is about pitching that message that you can come Down Under, you can have a working holiday, you can have a whole lot of fun while you here, you can partly self fund the holiday by pursuing different jobs while you’re here and it is of course a rite of passage that many have undertaken in their lives over the years and we want to encourage many more to do so in the future.

Rebecca Levingston: Yeah I wouldn’t mind starting my day in the surfboard room.

Simon Birmingham: You and me both.

Rebecca Levingston: Minister just finally, did the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, it was him who, did he come up with the line ‘where the bloody hell are you’ or he was just involved in that campaign?

Simon Birmingham: Well he was the Managing Director of Tourism Australia at the time so that’s a big part of his background and that’s why he’s so passionate about supporting the tourism industry. I heard our current Managing Director asked about that the other day, he was saying that marketing lines of course if people remember them and is still talking about them years later that’s usually quite a positive thing and of course in a lot of those markets particularly the US the European type markets, it was quite a successful campaign that Scott Morrison led at the time.

Rebecca Levingston: Minister good to talk to you. Bring your deodorant to Brisbane today, it’s pretty hot. So when you fly in, you’ll notice the difference between Adelaide and Bris Vegas. Thanks for your time.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you.

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