AGRICULTURE Minister David Littleproud says the Australian Government has developed a national plan to allow seasonal and Pacific workers to fill farming’s labour void and help support Australia’s COVID-19 recovery.
“This sensible approach developed by the Australian Government ensures our farmers can keep feeding the nation and supplying the world,” Minister Littleproud said.
“I have written to state and territory agriculture ministers urging them to work with their colleagues and farmer sector to take advantage of the reopening of the Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme.
“With appropriate state and territory plans and quarantine arrangements in place, seasonal and Pacific workers can safely support farmers facing critical workforce shortages.
“Agriculture is the engine of regional and rural Australia and is an essential industry, contributing $60 billion annually to our GDP.
“Many regions are expecting above average crop production following good rains.
“But farmers can’t fill harvest jobs because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, with people prevented from moving across state borders, overseas workers and working holiday makers in scarce supply.
“More than 40 per cent of working holiday makers have departed Australia since the border closures, and while there are still around 8,000 Pacific and Timorese workers in Australia, this is nowhere near enough to meet the upcoming harvest needs.
“It is critical farmers have access to labour to help them capitalise on the favourable conditions and ensure agriculture continues powering Australia’s economy and feeding our nation.
“We are allowing targeted recruitment of labour under the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme.
“This decision gives industry certainty so they can plan their workforce needs and know that harvesting our fruit and vegetables can be done at the right time so food doesn’t go to waste.
“There will continue to be rigorous labour market testing to provide Australians with an opportunity to apply for these seasonal jobs first.
“This announcement builds on the visa changes we’ve made to keep temporary workers here longer to support critical sectors like agriculture as the nation recovers from COVID-19.
“The Australian Government will continue to be agile in our response to COVID-19 and in ensuring we do everything within our power to help our farm sector and regional communities rise to the many challenges this pandemic is presenting,” Minister Littleproud said today.