POST 99: AUSTRALIA’S NEW AGRICULTURAL VISA AND THE PITFALLS

Overview

A new farm work visa will be offered to residents from 10 South-East Asian countries.

Yet the latest Home Affairs data demonstrates there is a large proportion of visa overstayers from Southeast Asia.

Recent figures reveal over 23,000 foreign nationals applied for protection visas in 2019 -20. See Table 1 below.

Table 2 demonstrates that less than 10% were accepted as genuine refugees.

In total to date there is a large number (59,032 foreign nationals) that were not granted a Final Protection Visa in Australia, that have yet to be deported.

This includes all people who have applied for a protection visa in Australia and had not been granted a protection visa and not been removed under the Migration Act. They are either an unlawful non-citizen or held on a bridging visa.

Given there are a considerable amount of visa overstayers in Australia. Can the Morrison government guarantee the Australian public that temporary migrants with agri visas, will leave Australia, before their visas expire?

What is the financial cost to the Australia taxpayer of all this?

There is a significant amount of foreign nationals which have mounted a legal appeal against protection visa refusals and bridging visa refusals. We shall examine the Bridging visa controversy in a future Post

Given the protection visa applications show no signs of abating. It is very worrying that Federal politicians and bureaucrats do not heed the evidence that the new agri visa may be used as a vehicle to apply for a protection visa or bridging visa?

Table 1: Protection Visa lodgements by Citizenship (top 10 nationalities)

Country of citizenship2018–192019–20
Malaysia8,0136,046
China (Exc. SAR)4,8723,321
India1,8642,866
Vietnam7821,069
Fiji9801,024
Thailand1,319808
Indonesia672775
Philippines487659
Pakistan508609
Taiwan478423
Other4,5915,626
Total24,56623,226

(Source Department of Home Affairs, 2021)

Table 2: Grant and grant rates by Citizenship (Top 10)

Country of citizenship2019–20Grant rate
Turkey20574.3%
Iran18072.9%
Pakistan16441.2%
Iraq13446.5%
Saudi Arabia9474.0%
China (Exc. SAR)834.2%
Afghanistan8376.1%
Venezuela8060.6%
Papua New Guinea6843.3%
Lebanon4712.5%
Other512
Total1,6509.8%

(Source Department of Home Affairs, 2021)

Opportunity missed to develop a long-term viable farm worker option for Australian citizens.

In 2015 the Federal Government commissioned academics to oversee the Report of the Migrant Worker’s Taskforce. The academic research surveyed 1440 Working Holiday Makers and:

found that 32 per cent of WHMs earned $12 per hour or less and 46 percent earned $15 or less in their lowest paid job. At the time of the survey the standard hourly rate for a casual worker under the Horticulture Award was $22.13”.

This represented the most comprehensive report by government on WHMs. It appears the problem was left in the too hard basket.

In 2021, young workers on Australian farms are being paid as little as $9 per day picking grapes and zucchinis, a new wage theft survey reveals.

The study, conducted by Unions NSW and the Migrant Workers Centre, interviewed more than 1300 horticulture industry workers in Australia. It found that almost 80 per cent of the workers had been underpaid in agricultural work.

Australian workers could be attracted by better wages and accommodation.

With the rapid rise in WHMs visas over the past decade, the farming industry has come under greater scrutiny for wage exploitation, illegal work contracts and accommodation issues.

However, Government and the farming Industry have been unable to come to better wage agreements and worker conditions.

Population Research WA is surprised better options or solutions have not been thrashed out.

Long overdue, is an investigation into a genuine long-term agri industry business and worker agreement with the pendulum swinging towards Australia’s unemployed, instead of the short term option of bringing in temporary foreign workers.

The Covid 19 pandemic has demonstrated it is unwise for Australian industries overreliance on temporary migrants

Clearly it is time to look further ahead than year to year and develop a framework for more reliance on Australian workers.

A better wage structure, conditions and accomodation. For example investigating the costs and business opportunities for a basic Fly in Fly Out or Drive in Drive Out camp style accommodation would be a start.

A recent study found a large number of Australia’s youth and general unemployed are applying for farm jobs, demonstrating that Australians’ are willing to work on farms.

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