A desperate call for new ag visa
AN INCREASINGLY desperate horticulture sector is warning the Federal Government it risks the future of the entire industry if there is no solution to its labour shortage woes.
Growers fear they will struggle to find enough workers for the season, with hopes of an agriculturespecific work visa fading fast.
Nationals leader Michael McCormack and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud have both backed away from their earlier commitments to have the visa in place this season, in the face of opposition from their Liberal partners.
Both insist the Government is still considering its options. But a full ag visa is looking increasingly less likely, with indications growing of a future regional visa instead – which industry argues will still not fit agriculture’s unique needs.
“My fear is this is going to become a politicised issue once again, and they (the Government) will start playing politics instead of getting fruit and veg harvested,” VFF horticulture president Emma Germano said.
“We still need a solution – nothing has changed in the system, it’s only getting tighter.”
At a minimum, industry wants to see a trial visa this coming season, or for the existing visa system to be tweaked to:
■ Open the seasonal worker program to more countries;
■ Allow for portability of workers under the seasonal worker program, rather than tying them to one farm; and
■ Scrapping rules that stop working holiday-makers from staying at one employer for longer than six months.