Take up farm jobs or lose dole, says PM

The Courier-Mail - - NEWS - EX­CLU­SIVE RE­NEE VIELLARIS

DOLE bludgers who refuse to work for farm­ers des­per­ate for help face los­ing their wel­fare un­der a tough Mor­ri­son Gov­ern­ment plan to stop fruit and veg­eta­bles rot­ting on vines.

In­stead of cre­at­ing a new agri­cul­ture visa to para­chute over­seas work­ers on to farms for the up­com­ing crit­i­cal sea­son, the Gov­ern­ment will de­mand the unemployed should take avail­able jobs first.

Farm­ers in Queens­land, the North­ern Ter­ri­tory and South Aus­tralia have com­plained they can­not find staff, mean­ing some are pre­par­ing to watch pro­duce rot.

Un­der a re­cent de­ci­sion, ticked-off by the Gov­ern­ment’s Ex­pen­di­ture Re­view Com­mit­tee, farm­ers will be asked to reg­is­ter their job re­quire­ments, pay and con­di­tions with the Na­tional Har­vest Labour In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice.

Job providers will try to get lo­cal unemployed into those farms. If a per­son does not have an ac­cept­able rea­son for re­fus­ing a farm job, they face los­ing one month of wel­fare pay­ments, pos­si­bly more.

The Gov­ern­ment is also look­ing at fur­ther op­tions if farm­ers need a big­ger work­force, in­clud­ing changes to the Sea­sonal Worker Pro­gram, Pa­cific Labour Scheme and Work­ing Hol­i­day Maker visas.

Mr Mor­ri­son said the change would en­sure jobs were be­ing filled by Aus­tralians.

“We want to high­light ex­actly where the jobs are and make sure job seek­ers know where to be look­ing.

“While we’re tack­ling the labour short­age this also en­sures job seek­ers on tax­payer sup­port have no ex­cuse to refuse op­por­tu­ni­ties. Where we can­not find Aus­tralians to do the work, we ... will back our farm­ers and make ar­range­ments through our Pa­cific Is­land worker and mi­gra­tion pro­gram to get the job done.”

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Na­tion­als’ leader Michael McCor­mack said the re­gions needed a strate­gic, tar­geted ap­proach to solve labour needs.

“We un­der­stand the need to pro­vide more flex­i­ble work­force op­tions to help our farm­ers pick their fruit and har­vest their crops this sea­son,” Mr McCor­mack said.

Ten­sions have boiled over be­tween the Lib­er­als and the Na­tion­als over a need for an agri­cul­ture visa to help farm­ers pick their pro­duce.

How­ever, na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues, in­clud­ing China’s mus­cle in the Pa­cific and soft diplo­macy with re­gional neigh­bours who like hav­ing the abil­ity to work in Aus­tralia, have caused in­ter­nal road blocks within the Coali­tion. It is un­der­stood Mr McCor­mack told his col­leagues he would se­cure an agri­cul­ture visa in the se­cre­tive Coali­tion Agree­ment. The pol­icy does not sit with the Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud, but Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter David Cole­man is work­ing on a longer-term plan.

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