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Working Holiday Maker Visa Review

1. The Law Council of Australia welcomes the opportunity to provide comments on the Working Holiday Maker Visa review. 

2. The Migration Law Committee (MLC) of the Law Council’s Federal Litigation and Dispute Resolution Section has provided these comments. The MLC’s members are specialists in immigration law. The Law Council is the national peak body for the legal profession. Further information about the Law Council is at Attachment A. 

3. In March 2016, the Senate Standing Committee on Education and Employment released the final report of its inquiry into the impact of Australia’s temporary work visa programs on the Australian labour market and on temporary work visa holders. The report, A National Disgrace: The Exploitation of Temporary Work Visa Holders details the appalling conditions in which many holders of working holiday visas in subclasses 417 and 462 find themselves and, in many cases, the systematic exploitation of this transient source of unskilled labour.

4. Many working holiday visa holders are young adults aged 18–30 with limited work experience who have recently completed or are in the process of completing tertiary studies. The visa programme is intended to encourage cultural exchange and closer ties between participating partner countries. A visa holder can work and holiday in Australia for up to 12 months (including a period of study up to four months). Workers can only work with each employer for up to 6 months. If a second visa is granted, workers can return to the same employer for another 6 months. 

5. Working holiday makers contribute in essential ways in rural sectors of the economy where there is a strong cyclical and seasonal demand for relatively low-skilled and low-paid labour. A number of submissions to the Senate Committee inquiry made by farmers, growers and tourism organisations drew attention to the difficulty many rural industries face in attracting local labour, and the high value that the Working Holiday Maker visa programme has to their industries.2 As seasonal harvests tend to be of perishable produce, there is a limited window of opportunity for harvesting and transporting that produce from regional areas to domestic and international markets. Where sufficient harvest labour cannot be sourced, the National Farmers Federation reports that losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars can be incurred due to unpicked produce.

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