School leavers should spend their sabbaticals picking fruit, urges bipartisan committee

School leavers who spend a sabbatical year picking fruit could get a cut on their college loans under a plan proposed by a bipartisan parliamentary inquiry.

Other options proposed by the committee include allowing the unemployed to keep welfare benefits and extending international student visas if they agree to go into the bush to help address a labor shortage. rural work that threatens to see the fruits rot on the trees.

School graduates could take on the job left by backpackers in agriculture and horticulture.Credit:Justin mcmanus

Parliamentary Committee on Migration is looking for ways to replace the 70,000 backpackers who typically collect up to 60% of some fruit and vegetable crops but are absent from Australian farms and hostels due to coronavirus travel restrictions .

The Liberal, National and Labor members of the committee endorsed proposals in its interim report, including the idea of ​​a ‘Gap Year at Home’ program that would encourage school and university graduates to spend time doing homework. agricultural and horticultural.

Committee chair Julian Leeser, a Liberal MP, said with far fewer jobs available in industries such as hospitality, following the harvest trail was a good alternative.

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“We have too many people who have seen Berlin before they have seen Bundaberg,” Leeser said. “You meet people from overseas… and bridge the city-country divide.”

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the government was aware of the seriousness of the problem and had already extended backpacker visas. “The government is also considering a number of national programs in which Australians could participate, some of which are detailed in the report,” Littleproud said.

For next year, the committee recommends that unemployed people who move to the country receive one-time payments to help with accommodation and moving expenses and be allowed to keep their jobseeker’s allowances even if they do. are paid for agricultural work.

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