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Monday, January 24 2022

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Senate inquiry recommends abolition of Australia’s backpacker visa rules

Canberra: A two-year senate inquiry has called for an overhaul of Australia’s temporary migration system.

The report, which was tabled on Wednesday night, made 40 recommendations for change including abolishing the 88-day backpacker visa rule, reports Xinhua news agency.

Under the rule, backpackers on a 12-month working holiday visa must complete 88 days of seasonal work in regional Australia to be eligible for a second year visa.

For a third year, visa holders must do regional work for an additional six months.

Senator Raff Ciccone, chair of the committee, said the “slave” measure should be abolished across the board, calling for the program to focus on “facilitating cultural exchange” rather than labour.

“Those who spoke to our committee told us that they were fed up with report after report, band-aid solutions and a lack of systemic improvement,” he told Parliament.

The inquiry heard evidence of widespread temporary visa worker exploitation, wage theft, physical abuse and sexual harassment.

According to research by Unions New South Wales (NSW) and the Migrant Workers Centre, 78 per cent of horticulture workers are underpaid.

“There is one story that runs true through almost every one of them and that is the story of a broken system that is failing to deliver for those that need it to,” Ciccone said.

The report called for trade unions to be given power to conduct audits of businesses suspected of exploiting migrant workers.

It recommended that the mandate of the Fair Work Ombudsman be changed to have a “greater emphasis on its role as an enforcer of Australian industrial relations laws”.

“Unions can play a constructive role in coming up with actions that genuinely address the exploitation issue and prevent it from being swept under the carpet,” Ciccone said.

“Encouraging temporary visa workers to join a union would provide an added layer of protection and support.”

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