Take up farm jobs or lose dole, says PM
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.