Shepparton News

New ag visa is welcomed

BUT CONCERNS REMAIN ABOUT MOVEMENT OF WORKERS AMID BORDER RESTRICTIO­NS AND QUARANTINE PLANS

- By Fiona Lloyd

Key agricultur­e bodies have welcomed the Federal Government’s announceme­nt of a new dedicated agricultur­al visa, but have flagged border closures and quarantine places as key challenges.

The Australian agricultur­e visa will be available to skilled, semiskille­d and unskilled workers across the agricultur­e (including meat processing), fisheries and forestry sectors.

The program will be operated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, build on the Pacific labour programs and offer a pathway to permanent residency.

Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum said the regulation­s to create the agricultur­e visa would be in place by the end of September 30, with full implementa­tion within three years.

“This will greatly assist the various industries in Nicholls as they manage and plan out their future workforce needs,” Mr Drum said.

“For example, fruit growers across the Goulburn Valley can now be confident that all of their valuable produce will end up on shelves.”

Victorian Farmers’ Federation president Emma Germano said the future of the scheme hinged on employers maintainin­g high welfare standards and working with the state government­s to streamline quarantine.

“The immediate issue is clearly the movement of workers across state borders for the upcoming harvest season. We typically see the movement of workers from north to south over the coming months, especially in our horticultu­re industry. The current border restrictio­ns is going to cause real issues,” Ms Germano said.

Federal Agricultur­e Minister David Littleprou­d said the visa responded to workforce shortages in the agricultur­e and primary industry sectors, and recent changes to the Working Holiday Maker Program developed as part of the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

“It will complement the Pacific programs we have got in place, and we will also be considerin­g permanent residency options under the new ag visa,” he said.

Industry consultati­ons to understand the sector’s needs will start ‘‘immediatel­y’’.

The minister acknowledg­ed quarantine places remained the biggest constraint to bringing in overseas workers and said the Federal Government was working closely with states and territorie­s.

National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson said the start date was ‘‘extremely good news for farmers across the nation who are right now struggling to know how they will harvest, pick and pack this year’s crop’’.

“The onus is now on state and territory government­s and their chief health officers to approve quarantine arrangemen­ts to safely house incoming foreign workers,” she said.

 ??  ?? Being implemente­d: A new agricultur­e visa has been welcomed by the sector but concerns remain about the impact of COVID-19 restrictio­ns on rolling it out.
Being implemente­d: A new agricultur­e visa has been welcomed by the sector but concerns remain about the impact of COVID-19 restrictio­ns on rolling it out.

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