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June 27, 2023

SUBJECT | Holidaymaker Visa | 27 June 2023

John MacKenzie: Dan Tehan’s on the line, he’s the federal member for Wannon and the LNP Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. Dan, good morning.

Dan Tehan: Morning John, how are you? Great to be with you.

MacKenzie: Dan people would read these figures and say, no it’s a misprint.

Tehan: They would, it’s sort of hard to believe because we’re a nation that has always loved backpackers. They’ve been a key part of our tourism industry. They deliver over $3 to our economy. They've always sort of had a special part of who we are. Now we're doing everything we can to make it incredibly difficult for them to come here. We’ve jacked the visa price up to $640 - so that's the highest anywhere in the world. And now they're considering limiting the amount of time they could come here for one year. Now, I know, all your cafes, restaurants, tour operators, and everything there in Cairns will be absolutely dismayed because backpackers are an essential part of our workforce in many, many tourism towns. As a former tourism minister, having visited Cairns on numerous occasions, I have seen how much, or how important, the tourism industry is to you. I know that your tourism businesses will just be absolutely dismayed by this.

MacKenzie: It's also the producers on the Tablelands, particularly also the banana growers to the south of our city, etc. They rely on that 88-day requirement whatever it is, I think I’ve remembered that right, for an influx at harvest time or packing time or whatever. I’m struggling to work out who recommended this and do they know what they’re talking about.

Tehan: You’re absolutely right. 80% of our horticultural businesses, our banana growers, our fruit growers, our vegetable growers, and 80% of their workforce come from backpackers. So, the idea that we could tax them or put a tax on the visas to make other places to go more competitive and then also to contemplate reducing from three years back to one, the amount of time the backpackers can come here beggars belief. And the sense I get with the Albanese Government is what they want is they want people here permanently. They’re bringing 1.5 million people here over the next five years and we don’t know where we’re going to house them but because backpackers are temporary, they seem to want to shut them out. Yet the temporary backpackers are exactly what we need. They come in, they spend money, they work and eventually they go home so you don't get the rental and the housing crisis that we're facing at the moment. So, it just seems to be they’ve singled backpackers out to sort of be one of the victims of their big Australia approach, which will see 1.5 million people come here over the next five years.

MacKenzie: Well, anyway, it's getting the publicity it deserves. It's right across page one of The Australian today. I appreciate this update. Thank you.

Tehan: Pleasure and take care and thanks for your interest because it's vital for Cairns that these backpackers can keep coming and keep doing what they are for the cafes and the restaurant and the growers on the Tablelands.

MacKenzie: Good on you Dan Tehan.

Media contact | Sandie Gustus 0408 564 232