ScoMo farming out dole
UNEMPLOYED Aussies risk losing dole payments for up to a month if they refuse “reasonable” offers to work as seasonal farmhands, under a new federal government program.
In a bid to end the bush’s reliance on foreign workers, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will today announce a regional jobs service that requires farmers to report their employment needs, pay and conditions. Jobs agencies will engage with the National Harvest Labour Information Service to put forward local jobseekers ahead of foreigners.
“This is about doing everything we can to ensure Australian jobs are being filled by Australians,” Mr Morrison told the Herald Sun.
“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.”
Jobseekers are being warned the Department of Human Services will enforce penalties for refusing a reasonable job offer.
Under existing rules, a jobseeker registered with Jobactive who does not give a reasonable excuse for turning down a suitable job offer can have their benefits reduced or withdrawn for up to a month.
The government will also examine options to bring in additional overseas workers if needed — but only once Australian jobseekers have had the chance to take the jobs — by adjusting the Seasonal Worker Program, Pacific Labour Scheme and Working Holiday Maker visa arrangements.
“While we’re tackling the labour shortage, this also ensures jobseekers on taxpayer support have no excuse to refuse opportunities,” Mr Morrison said.
“Where we cannot find Australians to do the work, we cannot allow the fruit to rot. We will back our farmers and make arrangements through our Pacific Island worker and migration program to get the job done.”
Seasonal workers and backpackers typically do lower skilled labour including fruit picking and packing. More than 6000 foreign workers arrived on the Seasonal Worker Program in 2016-17.
Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack said: “We understand the need to provide more flexible workforce options to help our farmers pick their fruit and harvest their crops.
“This will help to ensure our farmers and agribusinesses can continue growing and supplying the world’s best food and fibre, to boost and sustain regional economies.”