ScoMo farm­ing out dole


UNEMPLOYED Aussies risk los­ing dole pay­ments for up to a month if they refuse “rea­son­able” of­fers to work as sea­sonal farmhands, un­der a new fed­eral gov­ern­ment pro­gram.

In a bid to end the bush’s re­liance on for­eign work­ers, Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son will to­day an­nounce a re­gional jobs ser­vice that re­quires farm­ers to re­port their em­ploy­ment needs, pay and con­di­tions. Jobs agen­cies will en­gage with the Na­tional Har­vest Labour In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice to put for­ward lo­cal job­seek­ers ahead of for­eign­ers.

“This is about do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to en­sure Aus­tralian jobs are be­ing filled by Aus­tralians,” Mr Mor­ri­son told the Her­ald Sun.

“Our gov­ern­ment has heard from farm­ers across the coun­try about how tough it is right now to find work­ers, par­tic­u­larly at the height of har­vest sea­son for some crops.”

Job­seek­ers are be­ing warned the De­part­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices will en­force penal­ties for re­fus­ing a rea­son­able job of­fer.

Un­der ex­ist­ing rules, a job­seeker reg­is­tered with Jobac­tive who does not give a rea­son­able ex­cuse for turn­ing down a suit­able job of­fer can have their ben­e­fits re­duced or with­drawn for up to a month.

The gov­ern­ment will also ex­am­ine op­tions to bring in ad­di­tional over­seas work­ers if needed — but only once Aus­tralian job­seek­ers have had the chance to take the jobs — by ad­just­ing the Sea­sonal Worker Pro­gram, Pa­cific Labour Scheme and Work­ing Hol­i­day Maker visa ar­range­ments.

“While we’re tack­ling the labour short­age, this also en­sures job­seek­ers on tax­payer sup­port have no ex­cuse to refuse op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Mr Mor­ri­son said.

“Where we can­not find Aus­tralians to do the work, we can­not al­low the fruit to rot. We will back our farm­ers and make ar­range­ments through our Pa­cific Is­land worker and mi­gra­tion pro­gram to get the job done.”

Sea­sonal work­ers and back­pack­ers typ­i­cally do lower skilled labour in­clud­ing fruit pick­ing and pack­ing. More than 6000 for­eign work­ers ar­rived on the Sea­sonal Worker Pro­gram in 2016-17.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Na­tion­als leader Michael McCor­mack said: “We un­der­stand the need to pro­vide more flex­i­ble work­force op­tions to help our farm­ers pick their fruit and har­vest their crops.

“This will help to en­sure our farm­ers and agribusi­nesses can con­tinue grow­ing and sup­ply­ing the world’s best food and fi­bre, to boost and sus­tain re­gional economies.”

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