Is a new visa for agricultural work needed?
We’ve previously written about calls by the National Farmers Federation (NFF) for the introduction of an agricultural visa to meet labour shortages in Australian agriculture.
In a 2017 submission, the NFF called for a visa with two streams: a short-term stream (six to twelve months) to cater for seasonal or low skilled work, and a longer-term stream to cater for skilled workers who may move between employers, industries and regions.
The proposal has gained traction more recently. The Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has said the Nationals will continue to push the Coalition for the adoption of such a scheme, describing it as “non-negotiable”. NFF President Fiona Simson recently mentioned the proposal in a speech to the National Press Club.
However, calls for a new visa category have either dismissed or ignored existing schemes that bring Pacific islanders and Timorese to Australia to work in regional areas.
The newly created Pacific Labour Scheme, which aims to bring semi-skilled workers to regional areas for a period of up to three years where there are employment shortages, does not even rate a mention by the NFF, despite clearly meeting the demands of the NFF for a longer-term agricultural visa.
The Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) is dismissed by the NFF on the grounds that it is “primarily a foreign aid program”, and due to its “lack of focus on the industry’s requirements” (both strange accusations, given the size of the SWP is driven by employer demand, and given the scheme does not involve foreign aid).
Presumably the fact that the SWP currently brings about 8,500 workers, and that the new Pacific Labour Scheme is currently capped at 2,000 workers, is part of the problem. The NFF <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="https://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/national/nff-survey-agricultures-workforce-woes-continue/news-story/3025f7c6abd795b1ddf14a2b22b5ed83" target="_blank" …read more