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Irish businessman says backpackers won't return to 'prison state' Australia after lockdowns

Melbourne restauranteur Liam Ganley told of his struggle to find staff in recent months

Neasa Cumiskey

An Irish man who runs a restaurant in Australia has warned that backpackers won’t return to Oz because of the country's reputation as a “prison state” following its strict Covid lockdowns.

Melbourne restauranteur Liam Ganley, who is originally from Galway, told of his struggle to find staff in recent months and said he became so desperate that he even offered a package of flights, accommodation, and sponsorship worth around $13,000 (€8,600) to try and entice workers.

But, in an appearance on Australian breakfast show Sunrise, he revealed that the campaign was a complete disaster as he didn’t receive any applications.

Instead, Liam’s business received “droves” of angry comments from Irish and British backpackers who felt like they were unwanted Down Under and vowed to never go back.

He explained: “We just got basically abused – droves of comments saying ‘Why would anybody want to go back there? Why would anyone want to go to the prison state that is Victoria, where we were all thrown out of when lockdown first hit?’

“I think the reputation has been really badly damaged around the world and it’s kind of coming back to bite us now.

“They were just saying ‘We were there in 2020, we were basically told to leave, that we weren't wanted here anymore.’

“They were given no support, they were treated very unfairly and very badly,” he added.

Mr Ganley claimed that “hard-working people that were in this country paying their fair share of tax” and “contributing to this economy” were simply told to “go back home” when the pandemic hit as the Australian state could no longer support them.

“It's made a lot of airtime in the media back in Ireland given the fact that thousands and thousands of Brits and Irish come here every year, and the word has got around.”

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