Lack of Government regulations leaves backpackers exposed

Posted on Jun 19, 2019 by Graham WynnGraham Wynn

Again, this week we saw another case of a backpacker seeking to do “rural” work to enable a further 12 month extension on their holiday visa, allegedly abused by a less than scrupulous operator.
Too often we have heard such stories about backpackers being paid appallingly low wages, working in horrendous conditions, all to ensure they qualify for 2nd year visa.

Many other cases probably exist, but we know that many people on the Working Holiday Visa (WHV), do not complain as they are desperate to complete the 88 days of rural work they have to do, to gain 2nd year visa.

Now the government is offering the opportunity for people to get a 3rd year on the WHV, by completing 6 months of rural work, meaning the exposure these backpackers have to unscrupulous operators becomes even greater.

The problem I see is that companies who sponsor employees on skilled visa, are regulated, have to apply to Government to be an eligible sponsor, and this ensures, as much as possible, that these employers are reputable and will act I the best way possible towards the employees.

Unfortunately, those who employ people on the WHV, are not monitored, so not have to register or apply to be hosts, consequently any person company can employ backpackers. This leads to the problems we continue to see in this area, with the appalling conditions backpackers are forced to work in, and the continual stories of mistreatment, and physical abuse of the workers.

The Government need to step in and regulate this area. It is they who are insisting that backpackers serve the 88 day (currently) rural work to ensure they can gain a 2nd year visa, and as such, the Government need to be responsible for ensuring that the backpackers are not exposed to shonky workplaces.
Anyone wishing to “host” backpackers” should be made to register and scrutinised to ensure they are a reputable workplace.

Yes, more red tape, I realise, but we need to protect all parties, and is another way Government could also raise revenue. If workplaces are legitimate, and doing the right thing, they will not have an issue in paying a small fee to be registered as an authorised workplace to host backpackers.

The Government need to step in, regulate this area, as the risk to backpackers, and indeed, some have lost their lives due to the exposure they have and the predicament they are in, so as a country, we need to protect these people.