Young Aussies on JobSeeker and Youth Allowance will be encouraged to earn “incentives” by heading rural and doing the work usually undertaken by foreign backpackers, according to a new report in The Age.
Government estimates show backpacker numbers have fallen from 160,000 to just 70,000, meaning the young people who usually make up fruit picking numbers in order to extend their visas has dropped by 90,000.
Those under the JobSeeker or Youth Allowance plan will be thoroughly encouraged to go out into farming fields once this scheme rolls out. The plan, which is included in the $60 billion budget package, also aims to keep backpackers that have picked up work in agriculture, to stay in the country for longer.
The amount that individuals will be earning from their farm work is as of yet unspecified, despite the entire plan being laid out by Deputy PM Michael McCormack.
Trying to sell fruit picking to young people, McCormack said it would make for “a great Instagram story”, which is vomit-inducing.
“You’ll meet a lot of new friends and you’ll get adventures that you’ll remember for the rest of your life,” he told the Regional Australia Institute on Wednesday.
"If you're on your surfboard, you're unemployed, you're on the coast and you really want to improve yourself and help your nation besides, have a look what's available… you'll meet a lot of new friends and you'll get adventures that you'll remember for the rest of your life."
— Jade Macmillan (@JadeMacmillan1) September 30, 2020
It’s important to note though that this is an industry that is only recently being investigated by the Fair Work Ombudsman for exploitation.
According to an ABC report on Aussie farm exploitation, “one backpacker was paid as little as $2.50 an hour picking strawberries” on these so-called “adventures”, which have lead to Fair Work investigating the exploitation of migrant workers who are handed out low pay.
On top of this, the Government cut JobSeeker just last week by $300. Those on the JobSeeker or Youth Allowance plan who take up this new offer to make money on the farms will essentially be made to work for their missing dole. Not to mention the amount they will be making hasn’t even been confirmed yet, which is très concerning.
So yeah, as you can imagine it’s not the finest timing from the government.
Altogether, this package wants to get farm production up to $100 billion in the next decade. This year, production hit around $61 billion, even with a bevy of hindrances from bushfires, floods and coronavirus.
The National Farmers Association, who also called for HECS debt cuts for young Aussies who start picking fruit, have called for a payment of $1200 to those who move to the regional areas for farm work, and a work trial that pays out $5000 for seasonal work.
An entire seasons worth of work would be nowhere near as little as $5000. We spoke to former blueberry picker Elyse Rinzema at the start of the month, when farmers were promising $3,800 a week for fruit picking.
“Australians don’t do this job now because it’s just so shit; backpackers only do this job because we want to stay in the country,” she said.
“If you got $3,000 a week, then this job would be bearable.”
Now we just need to sit tight and wait for the mystery “incentive” to reveal itself.