'Lazy' locals dismiss farm jobs

THE accusation that “backpackers are stealing our jobs” is thrown around all too often, but are they really taking away employment opportunities or are we handing them over?

SP Exports owner and farm manager Andrew Philip said it was almost impossible to find Bundaberg residents willing to do farm work.

“We have between 12 and 24 jobs available right now that we can’t find anyone to fill,” he said.

“We operate seven days and we want a good, steady workforce.”

Mr Philip said his farm employed up to 400 people and it was frustrating to hear people saying there were no jobs available.

“The opportunity is there if people are willing to do the work,” he said.

“We need the right people, though.”

He said he would prefer to employ local workers because they were more likely to stay on.

“The backpackers are good, hard workers but they’re often only here for a short time,” he said.

“We’re giving the jobs to them because they want it. If the locals applied, we’d hire them too.”

Local farm worker Jason Dickson said while many locals complained they could not find work, it was more an issue of not wanting to work.

“Everyone whinges but the locals don’t want to do the jobs,” he said.

“Who else is going to do it, if not the backpackers?”

Mr Dickson said people needed to be willing to work hard if they expected to be paid.

“I think 90% of locals are just lazy,” he said.

“If they never had Centrelink, I’d like to know how they would survive.”

Ready Workforce branch manager Vanessa Aplitt said she thought local people were more likely now to pursue farm jobs than previously.

“Farms have locals that come back season after season, then they might advertise for shortages like farm hands, packers, stackers and then they call the backpackers to fill the rest,” she said.

“A large majority of farms in the region will call hostels rather than advertise for workers.”

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