Australian Labor Party defends agricultural visa scheme as farmers brace for increased minimum wages

The Australian Labor Party has defended its plan to replace the agriculture visa announced by the federal government last year and offer more incentives to farm workers from the Pacific. Yesterday, the party announced it would create a dedicated agriculture visa stream under the established Palm (Pacific Australia Labor Mobility) scheme, effectively replacing the Coalition’s new visa for forestry, fishery, and farm workers targeting workers from south-east Asia.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud accused the opposition of scrapping the agricultural visa which Australian farmers needed to meet workforce shortages. “The Australian Workers’ Union have got their way and will kill the hopes of providing a long-term solution to the labor workforce issues in agriculture,” Littleproud said. “What Labor has announced today is what is already in place with some tinkering at the edges of the Pacific Labor Mobility Program.”

The shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Kristina Keneally, has stated this was not the case as “the only thing that changes are the source countries, where the workers come from.” Labor would also publicly fund the initial travel costs of Pacific workers traveling to Australia rather than farmers, allow workers to bring their families, and promote permanent residency on a new Pacific Engagement Visa.

Michael Coote, CEO of AUSVEG, said the proposed changes to the ag visa would restrict the number of partner countries and result in fewer workers on Australian farms.


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