After Australia closed its borders to international travellers because of the coronavirus pandemic in March, the number of people in Australian on the WHM visa has fallen from about 140,000 to 73,500 earlier this month, prompting fears of a shortage of workers in the agriculture sector, which is reliant on backpackers.
An interim report by the inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) Program has recommended that HECS and HELP fees for university courses be discounted for students who work in regional areas and that a one-off government payment be established to cover travel and accommodation costs for workers that move to regional and remote areas.
Australians on JobSeeker would still be able to receive the unemployment benefit while also earning money harvesting crops and working on farms, under a bold recommendation by a Government-dominated parliamentary inquiry.
The inquiry recommended that for the next year "workers stay on JobSeeker payments while undertaking low-paid agricultural and horticultural work", but did not specify how much money Centrelink recipients could earn, or the tasks they could be employed to do.
Currently, people receiving the unemployment benefit are docked portions of their payment on a sliding scale if they earn over a certain amount.