- The Federal Government calls on backpackers to come to Australia to support a struggling Australian workforce as the Omicron variant runs rampant through the country
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the government will refund a $630 visa application fee for backpackers who travel to Australia in the next 12 weeks
- The support comes amid a rapid surge in Omicron infections taking a toll on a workforce already struggling from a lack of migrant workers
- Mr Morrison says backpackers and students should travel to Australia to holiday and tour the country, but they should join the workforce as they do so
- Australian health officials reported nearly 80,000 new COVID-19 cases by midday on Wednesday, with rising hospitalisations putting fresh pressure on states’ health systems
The Federal Government has called on backpackers to come to Australia to support a struggling Australian workforce as the Omicron variant runs rampant through the country.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced new government support for international backpackers and students who want to come to Australia. He said any backpacker or student who travels down under in the next 12 weeks will have their $630 visa application fee refunded.
“We want you to come to Australia and enjoy a holiday here in Australia, move all the way around the country, and at the same time join our workforce and help us in our agricultural sector, in our hospitality sector, and so many of the other parts of the economy that rely on that labour, that workforce right now,” Mr Morrison said in a televised statement.
“And we’ll be supporting that with $3 million that we’ll be giving to Tourism Australia to support a marketing program to target backpackers and students to get them out.”
He said the crest of the Omicron wave was either upon the country now or will be “over in the next few weeks”, though the economy was pushing through despite the “significant challenges” associated with the latest outbreak of the virus.
While states are enduring the outbreak without lockdowns or stay-at-home orders like through the Delta wave, isolation rules for those who contract COVID-19 and their close contacts are taking a toll on a workforce already in strife due to a lack of migrant workers.
Just this week, Commonwealth Bank estimated there were about one million people in isolation around the country based on daily case numbers and assuming each case has one close contact.
“Forced isolation and illness means that many businesses are operating at either reduced capacity, shorter opening hours or may even be closed,” CBA said.
Australian Industry Group CEO Innes Willox said Australia had been “largely closed to the world” for too long.
“The Federal Government incentives designed to attract foreign students and working holidaymakers to Australia are vital for our education sector and tourist industry and also a useful contribution to helping to deliver a bigger pool of workers for businesses struggling to find labour,” Mr Willox said.
“It is good to see the government identifying incremental changes that will get the workers needed to keep our supply chains moving.”
The Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) of WA also welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement, with CME Chief Executive Paul Everingham saying the visa fee rebate would provide an important incentive for foreign workers to come to Australia.
“As research commissioned by CME last year outlined, WA’s mining and resources sector could face a shortfall of 40,000 workers within two years if the situation is left unaddressed,” Mr Everingham said.
“International entrants are likely to react positively to initiatives like this visa rebate, which will remove one of the potential barriers associated with travelling to Australia.”
He said the news was particularly important for WA, which is yet to open its international borders. The state government has set February 5 as the date for borders to reopen.
Australian health officials reported nearly 80,000 new COVID-19 cases by midday on Wednesday, with rising hospital admissions putting fresh pressure on states’ health systems.