Echo News, 10.11.16:
SWAN Valley grape growers want red tape around where 417 visa workers can work to qualify for an optional second year visa changed.
Grape Growers Association of WA secretary Allyson Kundid said grape growers wanted backpackers to be able to extend their visa if they worked in the Swan Valley just like they can if they worked in rural areas.
In practical terms the grape growers want the definition of regional Australia to include their postcodes so the workers can work in the Swan Valley to qualify for an optional second year visa.
West Swan MLA Rita Saffioti said the grape growers had her support for the Swan Valley being included in the working holiday visa (subclass 417).
Ms Saffioti said the working holiday visa was previously limited to rural and regional postcodes in Western Australia, however the Perth Hills postcodes of 6111 and 6076 were recently included in the list of permissible areas.
“This action sets a clear precedent for special metropolitan areas being included under the visa arrangements’’ she said.
“Backpackers on working holiday visas can apply for a second 12-month visa if they perform three months’ work in regional areas in certain industries including agriculture.
“In Western Australia agricultural areas in the metropolitan like the Perth Hills and the Swan Valley were excluded from this definition of ‘regional’ but that has recently changed with the Perth Hills now falling into that classification.’’
She said the Swan Valley postcodes of 6055, 6056, and 6069 should also be added, which would help to attract more seasonal workers to the Swan Valley and put operators on a level playing field with other regions.
“The whole of South Australia falls under the definition of ‘rural and regional’ for this visa- subclass.
“The irony is that the visa specifically mentions the pruning and trimming of vines – Specified work to be any type of work identified in the list below (i) Plant and animal cultivation: A. the harvesting and/or packing of fruit and vegetable crops; B. pruning and trimming vines and trees.
“The Swan Valley community has been seeking to be included in the working holiday visa for years.
“I was shocked to learn we now have different rules for different parts of the metropolitan area.
“We need to support agriculture in the Swan Valley.
“I am disappointed that the Federal Government incorporated other metropolitan agricultural areas in this visa class but not the Swan Valley.’’
Immigration and Border Protection Assistant Minister Alex Hawke said the Federal Government recognised backpackers were an important source of labour for the agricultural sector.
Mr Hawke said there were no restrictions on where working holiday visa holders may work in Australia and they could work anywhere, including the Swan Valley.
He said the definition of regional Australia only related to the three months specified work to qualify for an optional second year visa.
In August the Hills Orchard Improvement Group said Canning MHR Andrew Hastie got them a meeting with Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton during the last election campaign.
Spokesman Brett DelSimone said they explained to Mr Dutton the Perth Hills region was classified as ‘metropolitan’ whereas the entire states of South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory were classified as ‘regional’.
“In essence a 417 visa worker pulling beers on Rundle St, in central Adelaide, was classed as regional yet a fruit picker in our Perth Hills region was not,’’ he said.
Mr DelSimone said the change had given them a valuable employment concession moving into the 2016-17 season.