No joy in plea for foreign farm labour
The Federal Government has baulked at bringing in overseas workers to help pick fruit and vegetable crops, instead hoping more locals will head to the nation’s farms this summer.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will today announce a three-point plan he believes will help get labour on to farms but which is a long way short of what is being demanded by short-staffed producers.
Led by the National Farmers Federation, the farming sector has been demanding a new agricultural workers visa to bring in overseas staff for peak production periods. But with the Government ramping up concerns about migration levels the push from farmers has been resisted.
Instead, farmers will be encouraged to use more heavily the National Harvest Labour Information Service which already enables jobseekers to search out prospective work.
Jobseekers will also be encouraged to use the information service. But the Government has yet to decide if it will increase penalties on those who fail to take jobs in their local areas or move to an incentive-based system.
The Government is also holding out the option of changing current visa arrangements that cover seasonal workers, Pacific Islanders and those on working holidays.
Mr Morrison said the Government was trying to ensure local jobs were filled by Australians.
He said the Government would not let fruit rot, suggesting a change could be made to the Pacific Islander visa.
“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,” he said.
Deputy PM Michael McCormack, who is in WA this weekend for the Nationals’ State conference, said the Government was looking at a range of ways to boost the workforce for local farmers.
“So we are working to ensure there is a strategic and targeted labour force to help farmers and country communities pick the fruit and finish harvest when and where they need it,” he said.