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DAN TEHAN MP
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WANNON
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
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SKY | PHARMACISTS & HOLIDAYMAKER VISA | WITH KIERAN GILBERT

June 27, 2023

SUBJECT | Pharmacists & Holidaymaker Visa | 27 June 2023

Gilbert: The pharmacy Guild is going to run an advertising campaign in eight marginal seats. The government has rejected it as simply another scare campaign.

Tehan: Well, it's not a scare campaign. What pharmacists are feeling is real. And the pharmacies here in Hamilton, where I am today, I know that they're feeling it because I've spoken to them, and there are pharmacies right across my electorate, and right across Australia, who are feeling the pinch because of this change made by the government. What the government has done is walked into the pub and basically said we're going to shout free beer, but to the pharmacists, you're going to pay for it. And rightly, the pharmacists are asking why do we have to pay for it. And in regional and rural areas, in particular, there's a real fear the pharmacies will close. So it won't be about cheaper medicine; it will be about people not being able to access medicine. So, the government needs to rethink what they're doing. You know, we all believe in cheaper medicines, but ultimately, in the end, they're asking pharmacies to pay for it, and they're saying, well, why should we pay for it if it means we're going to have to sack staff and potentially close businesses?

Gilbert: Is it to that extent, though, or is it simply copping a bit of a haircut so that others, particularly those with chronic illness, pensioners and others, get a little cheaper medicine?

Tehan: Well, they’re saying, and I've spoken to them in my electorate, and I've spoken to the Guild, they're saying that this is going to have a real impact. Up to 150,000, 200,000 dollars worth in some pharmacies, and in regional and rural areas, that means that those pharmacies could close, those pharmacies could close. And I know, because I've seen it firsthand, at the local pharmacy here in Hamilton; he’s said to me that he is going to have to let staff go. Now we need pharmacies open. We need them open for long hours so that they can serve local communities. And I can tell you, particularly in rural and regional areas, this will have a huge impact. And that's why the Guild is saying to the government there's got to be a better way to do this. Mark Butler is being extraordinarily arrogant, in just doing that. And if he was doing his job, he would sit down with them and make sure that pharmacies aren't going to close, aren't going to have to reduce hours or aren't going to have to let staff go. And he's not doing that.

Gilbert: On another matter, this is the issue that I wanted to discuss with you; given we're approaching July one, the increase in the working holiday visa fee is going to be kicking in. What sort of impact does it have, particularly on things like fruit pickers and so on, where backpackers really carry the lion's share of that sort of work? What are you hearing in terms of from your constituents and beyond?

Tehan: Well, what they’re saying to me is, what does Anthony Albanese have against backpackers? The backpacker visa fee is going to hit $640. That's the highest of any country in the world. Now you've got to understand that backpackers make up 80% of the workforce when it comes to fruit picking and horticulture. So ultimately, what this is going to lead to if we can't get the backpackers into Australia, is the prices of fruit and veg at the supermarket are going to go up. And on top of that, they're looking at limiting the amount of time a backpacker can come to Australia to one year. As you know, there's a second year if you spend 88 days in regional and rural Australia. Now if that goes, it's going to be less likely that we're going to get backpackers coming to Australia. This makes no sense whatsoever. And Anthony Albanese has to answer the question: what have you got against backpackers?

Gilbert: Is the reason for that the fact that the housing crisis is at such a point that they need to reduce the amount of people here on any visa, including on the backpacker visa?

Tehan: Well, that would make some sort of sense, Kieran, if that's what it was all about, but it's not. We know that the Government is bringing 1.5 million people to Australia this year and over the next four, and yet they're targeting backpackers who come and go, who do the jobs that Australians won’t do, who provide $3 billion to our economy. It just doesn't make sense. It seems to be, okay, we'll bring 1.5 million people in, we’ll add to the housing crisis, we’ll add to the rental crisis, we’ll add to the road congestion crisis, but in the meantime, we're going to target, backpackers who actually go out into regional and rural areas and do the work that no one else will - pick 80% of our fruit - I just can't understand what Anthony Albanese has got against backpackers. They've always been part of who we are as a nation. Australians backpack overseas; we welcome backpackers here. They're happy to welcome 1.5 million over this year, and the next four, but it doesn't seem to be backpackers who actually add to our economy and do important work.

Gilbert: The visa fee is coming into effect. The Government are only considering apparently the shortening of the window that backpackers can stay. Where to from here in terms of the Government's, pressure on the government. What we need to see from the industry, from the NFF and others to say to them, you need to keep backpackers here for that full two years.

Tehan: Well, there are three questions that Anthony Albanese needs to answer. The first is what does he have against backpackers? The second is, will you commit to making sure that the backpacker visa fee is internationally competitive so that other countries aren’t more competitive when it comes to that fee? And the third thing is, today, rule out limiting the amount of time that backpackers can stay in Australia to one year. They're the three things, the three questions, that Anthony Albanese needs to be asked and he needs to answer. And if he could commit to those three things, an explanation as to what he's got against backpackers, making sure that the backpacker visa fee will stay internationally competitive and three, that they won't limit it to one year. That would be three very good answers to those questions.

Gilbert: Shadow Minister for Immigration Dan Tehan, joining me from Hamilton today. Thanks. Appreciate it.

Media contact | Sandie Gustus 0408 564 232