Changes to visas like the Working Holiday visa mean the agricultural sector can retain workers and keep moving during the coronavirus pandemic.
Changes to visas like the Working Holiday visa mean the agricultural sector can retain workers and keep moving during the coronavirus pandemic.

MP’s push to send non-compliant backpackers home

Backpackers who do not comply with COVID-19 restrictions should be referred to the Australian Border Force and sent home, according to Dawson MP George Christensen.

Mr Christensen attended a Burdekin Local Disaster Management meeting in April via telephone when the comments were made.

According to a report of the April 17 meeting, the comments followed on from a report to the meeting by local police who had been left frustrated by non-compliant backpackers and hostel managers.

The meeting was held just days after police issued notices to close to a dozen backpackers for a "blatant disregard" of COVID-19 restrictions when they were caught partying at a hostel in Ayr.

In the report Mr Christensen was noted praising police actions but was concerned the actions of negligent backpackers would "cause a great deal of community angst and have support withdrawn by the public for their presence".

It was then that Mr Christensen suggested nonconforming and negligent backpackers should be referred to Border Forces and sent home.

The Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday area, which makes up a large chunk of Mr Christensen's electorate have been noted as one of the areas in Queensland with a high demand for backpacker workforce, often used in hospitality and agricultural industries.

The comments, made during a Burdekin Local Disaster Management Group meeting in mid-April, comes after a Home Hill doctor likened backpacker hostels to cruise ships, noting they were a prime location for cluster outbreaks, similar to those seen in southern parts of Australia.

With temperatures dropping, Home Hill Surgery General Practitioner Dr Sarat Tata said there is an increased risk of infection, particularly in crowded areas such as backpacker hostels.

This is despite Burdekin LDMG chair Lyn McLaughlin declaring employers should not hire backpackers that are not staying in hostels.


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