Constituency Statement – Bundaberg Hostel Association
Mr PITT (Hinkler): I commence by acknowledging our guests who have come into the Federation Chamber. They were in the main chamber earlier. I acknowledge them all. It’s great to have visitors.
Last week I met with a group of local backpacker hostel providers in Bundaberg. They aim to turn around the sometimes negative perceptions of backpackers working in the regions. As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker Wicks, we fought long and hard to establish Taskforce Cadena to crack down on the exploitation of foreign workers in this country, and it has been very successful. We do need to ensure that the good and positive stories get out, because it is an important part of regional communities, an important part of the regional workforce and an even more important part of regional tourism, which drives our local economy and jobs.
At any one time in my region there can be a need for between 1,000 and 5,000 people to do seasonal farm work, depending on the time of the year and the crop. While backpackers do provide a mobile workforce, we must never forget that they are first and foremost tourists in our wonderful country. We should ensure that they always have a positive experience. The overwhelming majority of them certainly do. Without those backpackers our local producers could not get their crops off and could not meet the demand from China, South Korea, Japan and all the places right around the world that demand our wonderful first-class produce.
I congratulate East Bundy, North Bundaberg and Dingo Blue backpacker hostels, who have formed the Bundaberg Hostel Association in order to build a positive and reliable organisation that can better service the tourists, the farms and the community. I think this is a great indication for us locally. I know that they are out talking to people like the Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers, the Bundaberg North Burnett Tourism Organisation and other backpacker hostels right around our region.
They are such an important part of what we do. Those people may want to pick sweet potatoes, get out amongst the macadamias, be in the tomato fields or pick zucchinis, capsicums or any of the other local horticultural produce.
You need that mobile workforce, and those people who are here on working holiday-maker visas do make up a large part of that seasonal demand.
Those discussions, I am sure, will continue. They do want to build the reputation of the region and work with the community to create positive change. I think that is a great outlook. My advice to anyone out there, right around the world, who wants to come to our country as a working holiday-maker is to come up to Queensland and get yourself into the Hinkler electorate, between Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. There is so much to see and do—regardless of whether you want to sit on the beach, down at the bay, or whether you want to head into Bundaberg. I congratulate, right now, Bundaberg Brewed Drinks on their 50th anniversary this year; it’s a local, family owned company that exports Bundaberg Ginger Beer right around the world. It is an opportunity for tourism. It’s an opportunity to do some work while you’re here and have some fun. It is important that we continue to manage our local reputation, and I congratulate the Bundaberg Hostel Association.