The federal government will rebate visa application fees for backpackers and international students heading to Australia in an attempt to address the workforce shortage.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday the $630 fee for international students would be covered for the next eight weeks, and for backpackers for the next 12 weeks.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the initiative was set to cost $55 million.
The Queensland government also announced that from Saturday international travellers who are double-vaccinated will no longer be required to quarantine.
Mr Morrison said there are 150,000 international students and 23,500 backpackers with visas and his message was clear – “come on down”.
“We want you to come to Australia and enjoy a holiday here … move all the way around the country,” he said.
“At the same time, join our workforce and help us in our agricultural sector, in our hospitality sector, and so many of the other parts of the economy that rely on that labour.”
Regarding international students, Mr Morrison said he was encouraging them to be back for the start of the university year as a “thank you for choosing Australia”.
“But we also want them to come here and to be filling some of these critical workforce shortages, particularly those who are working and being trained in health care, aged care, those types of sectors, that will be incredibly helpful,” he said.
He encouraged states to ease any lingering restrictions on international arrivals.
“I’d be encouraging them to look at those rules to make sure they can get those critical workers in,” Mr Morrison said.
The government will also give $3 million to Tourism Australia for a marketing campaign targeting backpackers and students.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said fully vaccinated travellers would from Saturday no longer need to quarantine, and would instead be asked to take a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of arrival.
“If you have family or loved ones … this gives (notice) to the airlines and incoming travellers that from 1am on Saturday you can come into Queensland and you will no longer have to do, if you are vaccinated, quarantine,” she said.
“You are free to come in. We want to give some certainty to the industry and for people who are travelling.”
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief Andrew McKellar said the changes were welcome, but the continued ban on foreign tourists, business travellers and others must be reconsidered to get the country back to business.
Business groups are also seeking a broader review of visa pricing arrangements.
(Australian Associated Press)