Visa changes an­nounced

New scheme will help ad­dress short­age of agri­cul­ture work­ers

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - Column - Na­talie Kot­sios news@ru­ral­weekly.com

BACK­PACK­ERS will be able to work at the one farm for longer and ex­tend their stays in Aus­tralia un­der visa changes aimed at help­ing agri­cul­ture’s worker short­age.

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son has un­veiled changes to the work­ing hol­i­day­maker and sea­sonal worker pro­grams in re­sponse to on­go­ing in­dus­try calls for help solv­ing their labour woes.

It comes af­ter the Gov­ern­ment ruled out in­tro­duc­ing a ded­i­cated agri­cul­ture visa in the short term, though Mr Mor­ri­son has said it re­mains an op­tion in the fu­ture.

Un­der the changes, work­ing hol­i­day­mak­ers will be able to work for the one agri­cul­tural em­ployer for up to a year. Farm­ers have been seek­ing this change to avoid hav­ing to find and train new staff ev­ery six months.

Back­pack­ers will also be el­i­gi­ble to stay in Aus­tralia for a third year if they com­plete an­other six months of ag work in their sec­ond year.

The num­ber of places avail­able in the 462 visa scheme – which in­cludes hol­i­day­mak­ers from coun­tries such as the US and China – will also be in­creased, as will the num­ber of ar­eas where they can work.

The age limit for work­ing hol­i­day­mak­ers will also be lifted from 30 years to 35 years.

Changes to the sea­sonal worker pro­gram, mean­while, will mean all work­ers from the Pa­cific Is­lands will be able to work in Aus­tralia for nine months in­stead of six, and re­duce the out-of-pocket cost for farm­ers us­ing the pro­gram by $200.

Changes to both visas will still re­quire an Aus­tralians­first labour mar­ket test be­fore farm­ers can ac­cess over­seas labour.

Na­tional Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Fiona Sim­son said the changes would make it eas­ier for farm­ers to find and keep the staff they needed.

“The NFF, pri­mar­ily through our Hor­ti­cul­ture Coun­cil, has long called for a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ini­tia­tives, the sum of which would be an ad­e­quate and fit-for-pur­pose farm work­force,” Ms Sim­son said in a state­ment.

“We wel­come these ma­te­rial changes and look for­ward to their im­ple­men­ta­tion.

“The NFF is pleased to have the Prime Min­is­ter’s sup­port for a ded­i­cated agri­cul­tural visa and we will con­tinue to work with the par­lia­ment to see the ini­tia­tive be­come a re­al­ity.”

❝pleased The NFF is

to have the Prime Min­is­ter’s sup­port for a ded­i­cated agri­cul­tural visa and we will con­tinue to work with the par­lia­ment to see the ini­tia­tive be­come a re­al­ity.

— Fiona Simp­son

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

HELP AT HAND: Visa changes have been an­nounced to ad­dress the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try's worker short­age.

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