The Australian Labor Party’s announcement addressing the worker shortage facing Australian growers by reforming the Pacific Australian Labour Mobility Scheme’s Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme, does not go far enough to address the horticulture industry’s critical farmworker shortages.
The plan will see the Australian Agriculture Visa embedded as a visa class under the expanded Pacific Australian Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme and the Federal Government bearing the travel costs for Pacific workers under the Seasonal Worker Programme.
The plan will also allow Pacific Labour Scheme participants to bring family members to live and work in Australia and establish a new Pacific Engagement Visa, which will be modeled on the Pacific Access Resident Visa from New Zealand.
AUSVEG, Australia’s industry body for the vegetable and potato sectors, has consistently called for a clear commitment from all major parties during the election campaign to continue delivering the Ag Visa to ensure that the industry can secure a competent and reliable workforce.
AUSVEG CEO Michael Coote said that while the announcement from the Australian Labor Party will help reduce the burden of paying travel costs for workers under the Seasonal Workers Programme, the changes to the Ag Visa will restrict the number of partner countries and will result in fewer workers on Australian farms.
“The Ag Visa was designed to be a long-term structural change for the industry to access a more efficient and effective workforce and reduce its reliance on working holiday makers,” said Mr. Coote. “The industry has been working tirelessly with the Federal Government to create an Ag Visa that will deliver long-term results for growers. It would be a shame for the ALP to limit its effectiveness through nothing other than playing politics.
“If the ALP has genuinely spoken to growers, it will know that the delivery of an Ag Visa is absolutely essential.
“Growers need certainty around the availability of critical farm workers, and this plan from the Labor Party does not go far enough to provide that certainty. The Ag Visa should not be restricted to a small number of nations but all countries that want to provide an avenue for their citizens to come to Australia, work on our farms and earn a decent wage.
“It is not too late for the Labor Party to make a clear commitment to support the Ag Visa to give industry the certainty it needs.
“We also would like to see a commitment from the Labor Party to increase investment in regional accommodation and services if it expects participants in the Pacific Labour Scheme to bring family to Australia. There is already a shortage of accommodation in many regional areas, and we do not want to see workers and their families struggling with inadequate accommodation options.”