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Call to change working holiday age rules

Tourism & Transport Forum boss Margy Osmond wants the working holiday visa age limit lifted to 50.

Tourism & Transport Forum boss Margy Osmond wants the working holiday visa age limit lifted to 50. Photo: AAP

Australia’s peak tourism body is calling for the working holiday visa age cut-off to be lifted to provide a wider range of skilled workers and professionals.

The federal government is conducting a migration review to find ways of addressing worker shortages across Australia.

Popular with backpacker tourists, the working holiday visa is only eligible for people 35 years and under.

But Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond said Australia could get more benefits out of the program by lifting age eligibility rules to 50.

“It opens up to a marketplace of people who have different skills and perhaps more professional skills that we could use within the [tourism] sector,” she told ABC Radio.

“We need to be a bit more creative in terms of how we fill [jobs].”

Ms Osmond said other countries were rejigging their migration schemes to encourage workers and Australia should do the same.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said the government had slashed the visa backlog ahead of the summer holidays.

Working holiday visas were prioritised and finalised in less than one day with 120,000 offshore backpackers approved ahead of Christmas.

“By ramping up processing in the Department of Home Affairs and hiring over 400 extra staff, I’m proud to say that we have now processed over four million visas since coming to government,” Mr Giles said.

“This has made a huge difference to the lives of Australians reconnected with loved ones before Christmas and to addressing skills shortages.”

Mr Giles said changes to the working holiday program would allow backpackers to work with a single employer for the length of their visa.

But Ms Osmond said rules requiring backpackers to work in the agriculture sector for three months to extend the length of their visa should be expanded to other industries.

“Not everybody wants to work in the agricultural sector, important as it is, but we would like to see a few more options and a recognition of how difficult times are,” she said.

“We certainly wouldn’t want to make life any more difficult for the agricultural sector, we’re simply raising it as a thought process … (for) other sectors that similarly had skills shortages who could be included in this structure.”

-AAP

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