The Joint Committee on Migration has decided to produce this interim report for the inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker Program because of the urgent need to address the substantial labour shortages Australia’s agricultural and horticultural industry is facing for the upcoming harvest season.
While the Working Holiday Maker program remains a key cultural exchange program, the agricultural and horticultural industry has also come to rely on working holiday makers to play a substantial role in harvesting. The shortage of working holiday makers has arisen primarily because of border closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Committee has received around 80 submissions from working holiday makers, businesses, organisations, industry bodies, academics and government agencies. We have interviewed 70 witnesses and conducted nearly 25 hours of hearings.
The Committee is still finalising its work on this inquiry. However, given the importance of the agricultural and horticultural sector not only to our economy but to domestic and international food supply, we want the evidence we have heard and our deliberations to help inform the Parliament and the Government’s response to this crisis.
This interim report contains recommendations for dealing with the present labour shortages, including the novel idea of developing a “Gap Year at Home” campaign to appeal to young Australians who might have chosen to travel overseas to instead see some of their own country and undertake work in the agriculture and horticulture sectors.
We have also made recommendations on how to enable and encourage other Australians as well as temporary work visa holders residing in Australia to take up this work.
Further recommendations about the structure of the program more broadly will be included in the final report which will be handed down by the end of 2020.
On behalf of the Committee I would like to thank all those who have provided evidence to the Committee so far. That evidence has informed this report and will also guide the final report.
Mr Julian Leeser MP

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