No joy in plea for for­eign farm labour

The West Australian - - NEWS - Shane Wright Can­berra

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.

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