A step closer to ag visas

Central Queensland News - - RURALWEEKLY - DAVID THOM­SON Grow­com CEO

AC­CESS­ING the right labour at the right time is an ongoing is­sue for many hor­ti­cul­ture com­modi­ties and we are cur­rently re­liant on a mish-mash of visas to pro­vide ac­cess to sea­sonal work­ers.

We were greatly heart­ened by Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud’s com­ments at last week’s Ru­ral Press Club lunch af­firm­ing his com­mit­ment to a stand­alone agri­cul­ture visa.

While Mr Lit­tleproud did not pro­vide ad­di­tional de­tail, he in­di­cated that gov­ern­ment was aim­ing to ini­ti­ate a trial later this year.

Grow­com has been work­ing closely with the Na­tional Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion through its new hor­ti­cul­ture coun­cil to flesh out the de­tails of a

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cur­rently have a sit­u­a­tion whereby many over­seas work­ers come here and work il­le­gally be­cause the visa set­tings are not right.

po­ten­tial agri­cul­ture visa.

The hor­ti­cul­ture sec­tor is pri­mar­ily seek­ing a short-term visa low-skill visa stream (six to nine months, with a “mul­ti­ple en­try” com­po­nent) to meet sea­sonal labour short­ages.

“Porta­bil­ity” is fun­da­men­tal to the suc­cess of such a visa, whereby en­trants would be per­mit­ted to move be­tween em­ploy­ers (pro­vided they re­main work­ing in the agri­cul­ture sec­tor) dur­ing their stay.

The visa would not be em­ployer-spon­sored or fea­ture labour mar­ket test­ing.

We con­tend that only em­ploy­ers who demon­strate sus­tain­able work­place prac­tices should be able to ac­cess visa work­ers and one mech­a­nism to achieve this would be through the Fair Farms cer­ti­fi­ca­tion scheme.

We cur­rently have a sit­u­a­tion whereby many over­seas work­ers come here and work il­le­gally be­cause the visa set­tings are not right.

Ob­vi­ously, we would pre­fer to em­ploy Aus­tralians but the sea­sonal and volatile na­ture of the in­dus­try makes it chal­leng­ing to re­cruit lo­cals.

That said, many hor­ti­cul­ture en­ter­prises are sig­nif­i­cant re­gional em­ploy­ers and be­ing able to ac­cess un­skilled work­ers means they can pro­vide em­ploy­ment of lo­cal peo­ple in longer-term po­si­tions.

Fun­da­men­tal to our sup­port of an agri­cul­ture visa is the com­mit­ment not to take any of the cur­rent op­tions, such as the one-year ex­ten­sion to the work­ing hol­i­day maker visa, off the ta­ble.

Ul­ti­mately we need to en­sure the new visa is de­liv­er­ing the work­ers we need, when we need them and these work­ers are sub­ject to the high­est eth­i­cal em­ploy­ment stan­dards.

PHOTO: FILE

RU­RAL EM­PLOY­MENT: Grow­com has been heart­ened by Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud’s com­ments on a stand­alone agri­cul­ture visa.

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